COMMENT: Filling a gap will not heal the underlying problem

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It appears the NHS has acted swiftly to ease the appalling crisis in dental provision on Portsea Island – but it has not solved the problem.

NHS England admitted the move had left 9,000 people without any dental care, while city politicians feared as many as 20,000 could ultimately be impacted by the shock closures.

The news came as the NHS website showed no places available for new patients in Portsmouth, with the nearest spaces available a ferry ride away in Gosport or a half-hour drive away in Havant.

Patients and politicians were rightly outraged and The News added its support by launching its Kick In The Teeth campaign.

Yesterday the NHS confirmed it had finalised an agreement with the Bupa Dental Care practice in Cosham to take on additional NHS patients.

Arrangements were also being finalised with the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy to, if you will pardon the pun, fill the gap in provision in the south of the city.

Sarah Macdonald, director of primary care and commissioning for the south said: ‘With the additional care the Bupa practice is able to deliver, this would provide around 80 per cent of the NHS treatment that was provided by the three Colosseum practices in 2018/19 and we are working with other local practices to put in place the remaining capacity as soon as possible.’

So, a step in the right direction, but it still means a potential 4,000 people in the city left without a dentist in the meantime.

With NHS taking formal action against Colosseum for breach of contract in pulling out of its obligations prematurely, surely the matter has exposed a weakness in the system which means NHS dental provision is left at the mercy of the private sector.

Our MPs should be asking why our beloved NHS needs to be baled out by organisations which are, after all, out to make a profit.​​​