Portsmouth and Hampshire sees 70 per cent drop in dental treatments as the city loses a quarter of its dentists
THE dental treatment crisis in Portsmouth has reached ‘a new low’ – with treatments dropping by 70 per cent and the city losing a quarter of its dentists since 2019.
NHS Digital data reveals 37,000 dental treatments were given to NHS patients in Portsmouth between June 2020 and March this year – a 70 per cent drop from 123,000 in the same period the previous year.
In comparison, Southampton saw a 71 per cent drop, while Brighton and Hove saw a 63 per cent drop.
Among the treatments in Portsmouth, 11,200 were delivered to children, down 68 per cent from 35,200 in 2019-20.
For NHS patients in Hampshire across the same time, there was a 69 per cent drop from 942,000 to 292,000 treatments.
The plummeting figures reveal the heavy impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw routine dental care halted from March 25 to June 8 last year.
Exacerbating the issue has been the city’s struggle with dentist numbers, which has suffered from one of the worst declines in the region, dropping from 121 to 90 dentists since 2019.
Across the rest of England, dentist numbers have decreased by 951 to 23,700.
Portsmouth has ‘desperately needed’ better access to local dental services long before the impacts of the pandemic, according to Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan.
He said: ‘These figures are deeply disappointing, but not surprising.
‘This is a new low for local dental service provision.
‘The government should see dental health as a fundamental part of primary care and provide the commissioning framework and funding needed to provide better access for our City.’
‘I wrote to the Health Secretary shortly after he started his role in July about this problem and will be taking further action as Parliament returns next week.’
In his letter, the MP highlighted NHS Digital data showing that 39 per cent of adults in the city saw an NHS dentist in the two years up to December 31, 2020 – compared with 45 per cent across England.
In 2019, the city saw Colosseum Dental close three of its practices in Southsea, Portsea and Paulsgrove, leaving more than 20,000 patients without an NHS dentist.
In response, Smile Dental Care opened a surgery in the former Hanway Medical Practice in Hanway Road, Buckland, in June, which quickly reported being ‘inundated with calls’ amid concerns that commissioners had underestimated the scale of demand.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said the issue has become a ‘major campaign’ over the last 12 months, with the MP recently holding a ‘constructive showdown’ with commissioners over the need in the city.
The MP said: ‘I think all parties recognise that Portsmouth’s voice needs to be included in the commissioning of services and that change is going to be made. Meantime we have been working to get the blockages to services, particularly in Cosham, opened up.’
The MP said she and representatives from Portsmouth City Council are due to have a follow-up meeting with commissioners ‘soon’.
Ms Mordaunt’s office has provided NHS England with a database of constituent cases, outlining their difficulties with accessing dentists both for urgent and routine appointments.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘The government continues to support the dental sector and we are working closely with the health service to increase access to NHS dental care as fast as possible.’