SHOCKING new figures have revealed Hampshire’s Primary Care Trust treated more emergency dental patients than any other PCT in England last year.
The problem is caused by many patients not having access to an NHS dentist normally able to treat them in an emergency.
Across England, 22,000 people had to be admitted to hospital for emergency dental treatment in 2007/08.
These emergency admissions cost the NHS an estimated £13million.
In the area covered by Hampshire PCT, 609 people received emergency dental treatment in hospitals, costing the local NHS an estimated £362,720.
Meanwhile, latest NHS figures show that 58% of people in Hampshire have not been seen by an NHS dentist in the last two years – again, one of the highest percentages for a PCT area in England.
The figures have shocked North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot.
“Access to NHS dentistry, as with all NHS healthcare provision, should be readily available to all,” he said.
“It is appalling that such basic services seem to be under-provided in Hampshire and that as a consequence, many of my constituents will have to make do with using their local A&E departments, which are already under considerable pressure, or are forced to go private.”
Mr Arbuthnot, whose constituency covers Eversley, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham, said the Government must act to ensure that fair access to NHS dentistry is guaranteed across all parts of England and that all tax payers are getting the same deal.
“The people of North East Hampshire are currently being short-changed and the services which they rely upon and which serve them well are suffering. This has to change.”
Helen Clanchy, director of primary care for NHS Hampshire, said: “It is important that people without a regular dentist are able to get urgent care when they need it so we have a number of dentists who provide urgent services during the day and emergency services at weekends.
“These figures give numbers of admitted patients and very rarely would an emergency admission be related to a condition that a dentist would treat, they are more likely to be related to oral cancers, major trauma and acute and life threatening infection.”
Mrs Clanchy said 609 cases, for Hampshire’s population of about 1.25 million people, is comparable with PCTs nationally.
“People in Hampshire have been telling us that getting NHS dental care is difficult in some areas as over a number of years some dentists opted to reduce the NHS care they provide and instead offer treatment privately.
“We have been working hard to redress this and have a two-year £6million investment programme in place to increase dental access, focussing first on areas of poorest access and oral health.”
Mrs Clanchy said to achieve this NHS Hampshire has already opened new practices in Romsey, Waterlooville, Petersfield, and Alton and have practices due to open shortly in Hamble, Bordon, Basingstoke, Lymington and Cowplain.
“We are also working with current dental contractors to extend their service to take on new NHS patients and this has, for example, expanded services in Aldershot.
“The new practices have already enabled the Dental Helpline to pass almost 25,000 patients to practices for NHS appointments.
“Our continued programme includes further procurement of new practices in Farnborough and Fleet over the next year.”
People who want help finding a NHS dentist in their area or need emergency treatment and are not registered with a dentist can call the Dental Helpline on 0845 0508345.