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Portsmouth: The city without NHS Dentistry

Blog Author Eddie Crouch

Blog Date 18/06/2019


Last week over 9000 patients in Portsmouth received a letter. They were told that three local practices faced imminent closure, and that if they required ongoing care they would need to visit nhs.uk to find a local practice. 

The trouble is their city no longer has a single practice that can accept new NHS patients.   

Portsmouth is home to over 200,000 people. And the most densely populated metropolitan area in England has now joined the list of communities failed by a broken NHS dental system.  

For us, this crisis has building for many years – this just adds to the evidence that we are now truly at breaking point.  

And we’ve made it our business to get this story onto the media’s agenda. I told ITV that we need receptive ears in NHS England and the Department of Health to produce solutions because we as a profession want to provide proper care for our patients.  

And we’ve been working with local dentists who are seeing the effects of this failure. Phil Gowers, Chair of the Hants and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, was clear about the impact of this failed contract, which puts an incredible amount of stress on teams, affects staffs mental health, and that those with the highest amount of NHS contract have the lowest morale. 

Phil said what we all know - prevention is more effective than cure, and these closures will inevitably put people off attending regularly.  

Doubly so when your next dental check-up could require a ferry ride to the nearest practice. 

As we’ve long argued, we can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. That future is in doubt because of inadequate commissioning, and the fact that many dentists no longer want to own an NHS practice or work under a failed NHS dental contract.  

In England, 75% of NHS practices struggled to fill vacancies last year – a leap from 50% in 2016. Net government expenditure on services in England has fallen by nearly £550 million in real terms since 2010, with patient charges increasing by 30% to plug the funding gap. The failed target-driven NHS contract has been a major driver of low morale. 

We pleased the situation has now become front page news. The local and national media are switching on. And we have already reached out to Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South, who has lead calls on Government to take action and safeguard services for his constituents.   

We will continue to campaign for a better system that works for the profession and helps us to ensure the best care for our patients. 

Eddie Crouch, Vice-Chair
BDA Principal Executive Committee 

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