Out-of-hours dental cover plan 'bonkers'

OUT-OF-HOURS dentists' cover in mid Essex could soon be abolished and instead rely on GPs with no dental qualifications, it has been warned.Brian Balmer, chief executive officer of both the north and south Essex local medical committees, described new arrangements proposed by health trusts as “bonkers” and warned they could lead to a “clearly sub-standard service”.

By Roddy Ashworth

OUT-OF-HOURS dentists' cover in mid Essex could soon be abolished and instead rely on GPs with no dental qualifications, it has been warned.

Brian Balmer, chief executive officer of both the north and south Essex local medical committees, described new arrangements proposed by health trusts as “bonkers” and warned they could lead to a “clearly sub-standard service”.

Because of new dentists' contracts that come into force next month, the provision of out-of-hours dental cover will become the responsibility of primary care trusts (PCTs).


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And at a recent meeting of Chelmsford PCT, Witham, Braintree and Halstead PCT and Maldon PCT it was agreed to propose that mid-week out of hours dental care should not be provided.

Instead, advice would be given by a dental nurse on the telephone and if that was not sufficient GPs could be called to step in.

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“What they seem to be saying is that if the dental nurse can't deal with it then it will be referred to the medical out-of-ours service, which doesn't include dentists,” Dr Balmer said.

“Doctors are not qualified to do dental work. You could easily make a mistake if you're in an area you are not an expert in.

“That worries the dentists, and it doesn't make us happy. We think it's a bonkers idea and were not consulted in any way.

“Dental patients would end up seeing somebody who is not qualified to deal with a dental problem, and that is a clearly sub-standard service,” he added.

A joint statement from Essex doctors' and dentists' committees warned that, if adopted, the plans could lead to people losing teeth and spreading infections.

It described the PCTs' decision to abandon out-of-hours dental provision as “a gross dereliction of their statutory duty.”

Yesterday, however, a spokesman for Chelmsford PCT and Witham, Braintree and Halstead PCT said that most out-of-hours dental treatment involved giving pain relief, which doctors were qualified to do.

She added that dentist representatives had been present at the mid-Essex dental forum where the proposal was adopted, and that following concerns raised by doctors that decision was going to be reviewed.

“It is true that the local medical committee were not at that forum, but the local dental committee were,” the spokeswoman said.

“Most of these cases require pain relief, which doctors can provide. They won't be expected to do anything dentists would do.

“If there is an emergency it will be dealt with.”

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