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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 17:04 GMT
North West: New NHS dental contracts
Steve Rawling
The Politics Show North West

NHS dentist registrations plummet

It has become a common sight - desperate patients queueing around the corner to register with an NHS dentist.

In towns like Burnley, Blackburn and Glossop, none of the local dental practices will take on new NHS patients.

Children in Bolton and Preston have some of the worst tooth decay in the country - but 77 out of 93 dental practices in these areas won't treat children on the NHS.

Across Lancashire and Cumbria, 50,000 fewer people are registered with an NHS dentist compared with three years ago.

Have your say

The government hoped to put an end to this situation, by training and recruiting more dentists and by giving cash directly to local Primary Care Trusts to pay for NHS treatment.

In January, the PCTs began to draw up new contracts with local dentists - which have to be signed by 01 April 2006.

But many dentists are unhappy - and this week, one Local Dental Committee decided to ask the public to support them in a fight for a better deal.

"I've never seen professional morale so low," said chairman of the Bury and Rochdale Local Dental Committee Dr Tariq Drabu.

"The new contracts are a treadmill and there's no emphasis on prevention or quality of care.

"We will have to hit targets or money will be clawed back from us. My colleagues feel they might be better off in the private sector.

"The new contracts will make it far more difficult for people to access an NHS dentist."

At a meeting on Tuesday night, the Bury and Rochdale dentists stopped short of calling for a boycott of the new contracts, but took the unusual step of putting adverts into local papers, warning the public that NHS dentistry is under threat.

The new contracts are supposed to guarantee dentists' NHS incomes for the next three years - based on the amount of NHS work they carried out the previous year.

However, the British Dental Association says the Government has put so many targets and conditions into the contracts that dentists can't focus on improving prevention or quality of care.

"The old contracts were a treadmill, the new contracts are a treadmill," said a BDA spokesman.

"A private dentist sees fewer patients, gets to spend more time on each patient and gets about the same money at the end of the day." In the meantime, the search for a dentist goes on for many people.

On The Politics Show this Sunday we speak to one man who has given up trying to find a local dentist, and finds it cheaper to fly out every six months to see a dentist in Poland.

  • Is your dentist about to go private?
  • Are you stuck without an NHS dentist?

Let us know what you think, and we could put your points to the government's Chief Dental Officer on the Politics Show.

Jim Hancock and Gill Dummigan
Jim Hancock presents Politics Show North West with Gill Dummigan

The Politics Show

Join Jim Hancock and Gill Dummigan on the Politics Show on Sunday 12 February 2006 at 11.55am on BBC One.

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