Portsmouth is branded a 'dental care desert' as desperate family travels from city to WATFORD for NHS treatment

A DESPERATE Portsmouth family is having to make a 166-mile round trip to Watford and back every six months just to see an NHS dentist, an MP has said.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 5:49 pm

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, revealed the shocking claim during a debate in parliament drilling into the rotten state of GP and dental services nationwide.

The revelation is the latest scandal in Portsmouth’s long-running dental crisis, which has seen some of the city’s poorest families struggling to find free treatment.

Speaking in parliament, Mr Morgan told MPs about the plight of a Portsmouth family who make trips to Watford every six months for treatment because there was ‘no option to register with an NHS dentist’ in the city.

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He added: ‘Possibly one of the most shocking examples of how bad things have got is that one Portsmouth resident had to resort to pulling out two of his teeth with pliers, after struggling to find an NHS dentist.

‘In 2022, in one of the richest countries on the planet, no one should be forced to take such action because NHS services are hanging by a thread.

‘Portsmouth is now not just a dental care desert: it is a healthcare hell.

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, pictured during the debate into GP and dental care access at the Houses of Parliament.

‘It is time for the minister to take her head out of the sand, listen to the people of Portsmouth, intervene to clear the backlog, develop a workforce strategy and finally deliver the NHS services my constituents expect and now desperately need.’

Portsmouth is the most densely populated city in the UK outside London. However, a study by the Association of Dental Groups has shown the city has the 7th lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 in the country, at 42.

Health secretary Sajid Javid insisted the Conservatives were pumping ‘record amounts of investment into the NHS’.

He added: ‘Under the last NHS long-term plan, before the pandemic, we made a historic commitment of an extra £34bn a year. Because of the pandemic, we then necessarily put in £92bn of extra funding. At the last spending review, we increased funding still further so that the NHS budget will reach £162.6bn by 2024-25, supported in part by the new health and social care levy.

‘We have made sure the NHS has the right level of resourcing to face the future with confidence, but we must also be alive to the consequences.’

Speaking after the debate, Mr Morgan accused the government of ‘disgraceful mismanagement’ of funds and ‘chronic underinvestment’ of the NHS for 12 years.

He added: ‘It is clear ministers are happy to simply paper over the cracks, rather than engage with the scale of the challenge at hand, clear the backlog and deliver the dental services my constituents need and deserve.’

In January the NHS vowed it would provide up to 350,000 additional dental appointments, nationwide, thanks to a £50m funding injection – with 15,000 coming to Portsmouth.

Speaking at the time, Maria Caulfield, minister for primary care, said: ‘Access to NHS dentistry has been given a much-needed boost with an extra £50m announced for NHS dental care services which will urgently give more people access to vital dental care when they need it.’