Dentists withdraws providing funded treatment
LONDON, Apr 7: Around 2,000 dentists have withdrawn from providing state funded treatment in England after they refused to sign new contracts, the government said.
Health Minister Rosie Winterton yesterday said the effect would be limited as most of those rejecting the contracts had been treating only a small number of National Health Service patients.
Winterton said many local primary care trusts had already found other dentists to cover the resulting gaps in provision and that others were in the process of commissioning extra dental services.
''Claims that dentists would leave the NHS in a mass exodus were unfounded,'' she added.
''Around nine out of ten dentists have signed up to the new contracts, and these dentists make provide around 96 per cent of current NHS dental services.'' But the British Dental Association (BDA) said it was ''astonishing'' that losing one in 10 dentists could been seen as a good thing.
The contracts, which had to be signed by the end of last month, are part of the most radical reform of NHS dentistry since the service was established in 1948.
The changes are designed to tackle a shortage of NHS dentists which has left around 2 million people who want NHS dental care unable to obtain it.
For the first time, primary care trusts have been put in charge of dental funding, meaning they have the ability to replace dentists who quit or move out of their area.
But many dentists say they are unhappy with new arrangements which require them to complete a target amount of work to get a fixed income.
The BDA said the new terms were worse than the system being replaced, where dentists were paid for each piece of work.
The health department said dentists in England had rejected around 11 per cent of the NHS contracts it had offered, and a further 30 per cent of the contracts had only been provisionally agreed with some terms in dispute.
Michael Summers, chairman of the Patients Association, said he hoped the new system would make it easier for people to find an NHS dentist.
''Patients have to travel many many miles sometimes to find an NHS dentist who will give them treatment.''