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Labour’s dentistry rescue plan ‘will make sure Portsmouth patients can get an NHS dentist again’ says City MP

By 20 December 2023No Comments

Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan has said Labour’s dentistry rescue plan will “make sure Portsmouth patients can get an NHS dentist again”, as new analysis reveals the overwhelming majority of practices have shut their doors to new patients. 

Of the 4,969 dental surgeries who have provided a recent update in England, 4,112 (82%) are not currently accepting any new adult patients, and more than 2-in-3 (3,531) are not currently accepting any new children as patients.

Labour’s analysis also shows that a whopping 754 (87.6%) of surgeries in the South East of England are not accepting new adult patients.

Mr Morgan has been very vocal in his lobbying of the Government regarding the dental desert in Portsmouth with British Dental Association analysis last year showing only 36.4% of children were seen by an NHS dentist and just 31.5% of adults. The city MP has taken a range of actions to improve access to primary care locally making this issue a priority in Parliament.

In May 2022 the Association of Dental Groups also found that Portsmouth had the seventh lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 in the country, at 42.

Mr Morgan welcomed the reopening of University of Portsmouth Dental Academy earlier this month following a £5m upgrade to its facilities to enhance student learning and experience through modern practical teaching.

The collapse of NHS dentistry has left millions of patients unable to get an appointment when they need one. Analysis of patient survey data suggests that last year, 4.75 million people were either told there were no appointments available, or the practice wasn’t taking on new patients, when they last tried to book an appointment.

Healthwatch England has reported horror stories of people forced to pull their own teeth out, with 1 in 10 Brits claiming to have attempted their own dental work.

Labour is promising to take immediate action to provide care for those in most urgent need, and long-term reform to restore NHS dentistry to all who need it. The party’s plans include:

  • Funding NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canal.
  • Incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’ where no NHS dentists are taking on new patients.
  • Supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3-5 year olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay
  • Reform the dental contract to rebuild the service in the long-run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it

The plans will cost £111 million a year in total and be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.

Commenting, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: 

“It is extremely concerning, but sadly not surprising that nine in 10 dental surgeries in the South East are now not accepting new adult patients.

“Under the Tories, NHS dentistry has collapsed leaving many Portsmouth families unable to get an appointment when they need one.

“Labour’s dentistry rescue plan will make sure local people can get an NHS dentist again when they need one by recruiting more dentists to areas with the most severe shortages, such as Portsmouth.”

Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said: 

“The Conservatives have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine, and now the service is barely worthy of the name. Patients are told to go without or do it themselves, with DIY dentistry now shockingly common in Tory Britain.

“The slow death of dentistry is the Ghost of Christmas Future for the NHS, if the Conservatives are given a fifth term: those who can afford it going private and those who can’t left with a poor service for poor people.

“Labour has a fully-costed plan to rescue NHS dentistry by gripping the immediate crisis and reforming the service in the long-term. We will provide 700,000 urgent appointments and recruit new dentists to the areas most in need, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status.”

Mr Morgan is spending time on the frontline in our city’s health and social care services to hear first-hand the impact of the crisis in NHS dentistry and the dental desert Portsmouth has become, frequently raising issues in Parliament with ministers including the crisis in recruitment and retention to improve local services.