An East Hampshire councillor has voiced his frustration after waiting almost a year for an NHS dentist appointment.
Cllr Andy Tree, Hampshire County Council’s independent member for Whitehill, Bordon and Lindford, phoned for an appointment in autumn last year.
To this day, he is still waiting for his appointment – but after phoning up the same practice and enquiring about private appointments, learned he could be seen within a week.
Cllr Tree fears that this bias towards seeing private patients instead of NHS ones could leave hundreds of people across Hampshire without the dental care they need.
He said: “I have been on a waiting list for an appointment since the autumn – but when I last phoned up I was told I could get one within a few days if I went private.
“If people cannot see their dentists on the NHS, and cannot afford to go private – as will be the case for many in East Hampshire – their dental health will deteriorate until it becomes a medical emergency.
“I wonder what motivation or encouragement dentists actually receive to see their NHS patients.”
According to NHS England, dentists in Hampshire are currently working at a 95 per cent capacity, having reduced their hours during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has created a backlog, health bosses say, but there is no indication of when that waiting list will be cleared.
Alison Cross from NHS England said: “Without additional funding, it won’t be a level playing field.
“There are a number of practices across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight that are underperforming, and we are aware of that.
“But for the moment we are stuck with what we’ve got.”
A recent report by the Association of Dental Groups showed Portsmouth CCG has the seventh lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 in the country, at 42.
It also found Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG at 15th lowest, with 45 NHS Dentists per 100,000.
Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said the £6.8m funding given to dentistry in the south east earlier this year was “wholly insufficient”.
“It’s clear to me from speaking to local dentistry representatives and practitioners that government funding allocated in January is wholly insufficient, rapidly turning Portsmouth into a dental desert,” he said.
“Tory ministers need to stop sitting on their hands, engage with the challenges and urgently intervene to deliver the NHS dentistry we deserve.”