Friday, July 10, 1998 Published at 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
A kick in the teeth for violent dental patients
Dentists have been given new powers
Health Secretary Frank Dobson has given dentists the right to strike off violent or abusive patients immediately.
The new measure is designed to cut violence and abuse against dentists and their staff and follows a recent survey conducted by the British Dental Association.
It found that, although physical violence was rare, more than 70% of dental staff had experienced verbal assault in the last three years. One in five dentists had asked health authorities to remove a patient from the NHS list.
Mr Dobson has amended the NHS dentists terms of service so that a patient committing or threatening violence against a dentist or member of their staff may be removed from that dentist's list with immediate effect.
Currently NHS rules require dentists to give three months' notice of removal. This means that the dentist or dental staff who has been abused may be required to give treatment to the patient again during this period and risk further abuse.
The rule change brings dentists into line with GPs who already have the right to remove violent patients from their lists with immediate effect.
"Like other people in the NHS, dentists and dental staff go to work to provide a service. They are not paid to be targets of violence, and the Government will not tolerate patients who abuse NHS professionals.
"We are creating a safer working environment in NHS Dentistry for all staff."
The move was welcomed by the British Dental Association, which has campaigned for action to protect its members for several years.
BDA council chairman Bill Allen said: "We are very pleased. Abuse has become an increasing worry within the surgery environment."