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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Millions miss out on dental treatment
Dental surgery
Radical reforms needed to keep dentists in the NHS
Two million people will continue to miss out on NHS dental care unless the government carries out urgent reforms, warn MPs.

The Labour dominated Health Select Committee warns that government plans to shake-up the profession are doomed to fail because they do not tackle the question of pay.

They also want to see an extra 1,000 dentists in the NHS to tackle the staff shortages created as dentists leave the NHS.

The Health Select Committee said it would be better if dentists were simply paid for treating NHS patients and that the methods of payment were "at the heart of the problem".

In the light of the history we do not advocate yet more reviews for their own sake, but rather action

Health Select Committee report

The report said the time had come for radical changes within dentistry.

"The system has been reviewed comprehensively in the past. Yet it remains unchanged.

Reform needed

"In the light of the history we do not advocate yet more reviews for their own sake, but rather action. We believe the time for reform is ripe.

"We recommend that talks should take place immediately between the government and the profession's representatives."

The Health Select Committee says that since the problem was first highlighted in the early 1990's things have got considerably worse with the number of NHS patients registered with dentists falling from 24.4 million to 19.8 million last September.

They warn that the elderly and those with diseases or disabilities such as deafness or dementia have particular problems finding a dentist.

But even when patients do manage to register with a dentist there are problems because dentists are spending less time working in the NHS.

The number of dentists receiving at least three-quarters of their income from the NHS dropped from 75% in 1993 to 58% in 1999.

The British Dental Association said the report backed what they had long been saying, that the current fee structure was driving dentists from the NHS.

Dental care

Dr John Renshaw, chair of the British Dental Association's (BDA) executive board said: "The BDA was delighted when the Health Select Committee decided to hold this inquiry, and we were pleased to be invited to give evidence.

"We are now looking forward to working closely with the government, with other agencies and interested parties to implement the report's proposals and improve the nation's oral health."

The Department of Health said: "We remain determined to make high quality NHS dentistry available to everyone who needs it."

They said they had also looked at the question of remuneration, but had been guided by the independent Doctors' and Dentists Review Body.

"But we are very willing to work with the profession to find long term improvements to dentists' working patterns."

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