Dentist hits out at NHS bureaucracy

A SUFFOLK dentist who is retiring after 45 years has hit out at Government changes which he fears will “destroy” NHS dentistry.John Sharp, of Berners Dental Practice in Berners St, Ipswich said he had a sense of “deep foreboding” about the future following a new pricing system introduced last year.

A SUFFOLK dentist who is retiring after 45 years has hit out at Government changes which he fears will “destroy” NHS dentistry.

John Sharp, of Berners Dental Practice in Berners St, Ipswich said he had a sense of “deep foreboding” about the future following a new pricing system introduced last year.

“It is a great sadness to me that what we have strived for for 60 years will degenerate into a pain relief service and proper dentistry will be private,” he said.

“The April 2006 changes are unfair, illogical and very poorly thought out,” he said.


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“I am afraid I have deep forebodings that the present government's changes brought in last year will destroy NHS dentistry as we know it.

Over the past year Mr Sharp, from Tannington, near Framlingham, has sent a string of letters to health minister Rosie Winterton, chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft and Ipswich MP Chris Mole criticising the new pricing system, which he feels is geared to the “feckless” who do not take good care of their teeth and is unfair to regular patients.

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Under the new scheme courses of treatment are split into three bands which cost £15.10 for routine examinations, £42.40 for fillings or extractions or £189 for dentures or crowns.

“My main concern is that under the new system the majority of my patients are paying considerably more than they were before,” said Mr Sharp.

“Most of those who visit my surgery, for example, only need a check up or one or two fillings at most but under this scheme you could have as many as 20 fillings and still pay the same as just having one.

“The new charges have been worked out by bureaucrats, statisticians and academics and not by what we used to call 'wet-fingered dentists' before we started having to wear gloves, who are the people actually doing the work. It is a great shame.

“I've seen dentistry itself improve tremendously over the years but the Government attitude to the funding of it has got worse.”

He added he was also disappointed that Government cutbacks have resulted in children being placed on NHS waiting lists for several years to have braces fitted if they fall outside very strict guidelines regarding the severity of their condition. He said this meant that parents who did not want their children to go through their teenage years with crooked teeth having to pay several thousand pounds for the work to be carried out privately by orthodontists.

Mr Sharp qualified as a dentist in 1961 and worked from July 1962 in practices run in Museum Street, Ipswich and Felixstowe by Jack Rowbotham before moving to Berners Street in the mid-1960s.

“Back in the 1960s I had two general anaesthetic sessions a week, each with up to six patients.

“Now the occasional case needing a GA is referred to the hospital or a specialist clinic. Teeth are so much better these days which to a large extent is due to fluoride in toothpaste.”

Mr Sharp added he was sad to be saying goodbye to his patients, some of whom he had been treating since he first came to the area and he would also miss staff and colleagues.

In his retirement, Mr Sharp is hoping to pass a test to qualify him to drive the local community bus and he wants to become computer literate. He also wants to travel to New Zealand and Australia with his wife Jan and to spend more time fishing and skiing.

His patients will be taken over on March 1 by Dr Marie Keady who has spent the last six years working as a dentist in Essex.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said since the new contracts were introduced NHS dentistry had been expanding and PCTs were commissioning more activity than was delivered last year.

jane.hunt@eadt.co.uk

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