Calls for more mobile dentists to help with increased demand for dental services

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Dentist surgery

The NHS is being urged to roll out mobile dentists to more ‘deprived’ parts of Hampshire to help with high demand.

In April 2019, before Covid-19, 51% of the 1,831,473 people in Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton had seen an NHS dentist in two years.

However, this fell significantly during the pandemic, where practices had to close for three months between March and June 2020 and operated at reduced capacity until July 2022. 

The NHS figures show that in February 2022, the number of patients attending dentists fell to 35.74%. Access has, however, started to improve, with 41.8% of the Hampshire population seeing a dentist regularly as of February 2024.

NHS Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board (ICB), which is responsible for planning NHS services in the area, said it has made efforts to increase accessibility to dentists and has introduced mobile units where check-ups can be carried out.

In February 2024, it launched a partnership with charity Dentaid to deliver dental care via the NHS to communities with health inequalities. 

Patients, including families experiencing poverty, people at risk of homelessness, children, and new and expectant mothers in areas at the highest risk of poor dental health, can make appointments to see the dentist on a mobile dental unit. 

During the Hampshire County Council Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee, councillors called for more mobile dental units in other deprived areas of the county. They said they benefit vulnerable residents and ease the increased demand for dental services.

Simoon Cooper, director of pharmacy, optometry and dentistry at the ICB, said the intention is “very much they go everywhere there is need and not behold or stay in any particular part of the county unless we can justify the need there”.

Dentaid’s mobile dental units work with partner organisations such as family hubs, community centres, public buildings and sports facilities across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. 

Eligible patients are then invited to make appointments to see the dentist, who will provide check-ups, oral cancer screening, oral health advice and a full course of treatment if required.

Emergency appointments are also available for eligible patients suffering acute pain who have no other access to dental care.

Currently, the service will initially operate for 18 months. A dental strategy was approved by the ICB in January 2024 to increase accessibility and dental capacity in the system, increasing education opportunities and access for patients.

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