Dental reforms criticised by MP

REFORMS of NHS dental treatment have “blown a black hole” in health finances, it has been claimed.Last year's modernisation of the dentistry system was designed to change the “drill and fill” culture whereby money was made for the number of patients treated.

REFORMS of NHS dental treatment have “blown a black hole” in health finances, it has been claimed.

Last year's modernisation of the dentistry system was designed to change the “drill and fill” culture whereby money was made for the number of patients treated.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) were given responsibility for ensuring patients could get access to care, but the Government miscalculated the amount of money needed.

And now figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed Mid Essex PCT is facing a funding shortfall of £1,219,000 because the income it has received from patients, through dental charges, has been much lower than anticipated.


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The revelation follows a survey by the British Dental Association which found the majority did not think the reforms had improved access for patients.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley obtained the figures after requesting data from 51 of England's 152 PCTs.

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He said: “We told the Government one year ago that their new contract would be a costly disaster for NHS dentistry.

“The National Audit Office warned that the NHS did not have the necessary expertise to operate the contract.

“Dentists walked out of the negotiations, but the arrogance and complacency of the Department of Health led them to press on regardless.

“Once again, the Government's abject failure to estimate the cost of a new contract has punched a black hole in NHS finances of tens of millions.”

The information from the PCTs nationally showed a predicted shortfall in patient charge income of more £124 million.

A spokesman for the Department of Health added: “Speculation about levels of charge income misses the key point that dental services are growing. As services grow, so too will the patient charge revenue.”

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: “The overall picture is that, despite the speculation, the number of dentists is growing and rather than leaving they are actually keen to expand their work for the NHS - hardly indicative of a failing system.”

Mid Essex Primary Care Trust was contacted yesterday but declined to comment on the matter.

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