Backlogs grow in Portsmouth as figures confirm huge drop in dental attendance rates

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Backlogs are continuing to grow in Portsmouth, as new figures confirm a significant drop in dental attendance rates.

Portsmouth has been battling access issues since 2019 when Colosseum Dental closed three practices in the city without notice. The move left thousands of people without a dentist. Now, with the impact of the pandemic becoming increasingly visible, people are finding it more difficult to see a dentist and waiting times are getting longer.

Data from NHS Digital shows a decrease of 26% in the number of children who attended appointments in the city in the 12-month period leading up to December 2020 (26%) compared to 2019 (52%). The proportion of adults who attended an appointment also fell to 49%.

One Portsmouth resident was so desperate to relieve the pain caused by dental decay that he pulled out two of his own teeth. Chris Savage, a labourer, said that he tried repeatedly to join an NHS practice and to get an emergency appointment but was informed that no practices were taking on new NHS adult patients. He ended up extracting two of his teeth in October last year and has still not been able to see an NHS dentist.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues with access to NHS dental services in the city but there is hope that more patients will be able to make appointments soon. NHS England has confirmed that Smile Dental Care will open a new surgery in Buckland and capacity at Cosham Dental Surgery has also increased.

Alison Cross, a senior commissioning manager for NHS England, said that 44 dental practices in Portsmouth have been offered additional funding to create more places for NHS patients and offer more appointments. None have taken up the offer so far.

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