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Wednesday, December 2, 1998 Published at 08:18 GMT


Health

Dentists in £13m shortfall

Dentists claim red tape is responsible for the £13m shortfall

The government is not living up to a £19m pledge to improve access to NHS dentists, claims the British Dental Association.

The BDA says the government has only allocated £6m of a £19m pot of extra money for new practices, modernisation of existing practices and improving access to NHS dentists.

A Parliamentary answer revealed that only £6m of the Investing in Dentistry money had been allocated in the last 12 months.

This is despite the fact that the government has received more than £20m in bids from English health authorities.

The BDA says blames a "bureaucratic nightmare" and says there is no logic in the allocations.

It claims health authorities in wealthy areas have received substantial amounts of money, while those in deprived areas of London, Sunderland and Tees have been given nothing.

Wiltshire and Gloucestershire have received mreo than £1.5m of the £6m.

Bureaucracy

The BDA is calling for the missing £13m to be allocated as a matter of urgency.

Dr Anthony Kravitz, Chairman of the BDA's general dental services committee, said: "Investing in Dentistry is unduly bureaucratic.

"If the government is serious about improving access to NHS dentistry, as it says it is, then it must make it easier to get the money to dental practices."

The association has written to the Pay Review Body for doctors and dentists to point out the shortfall.

Some 29 million people have NHS dental care, down from a peak of 31 million in 1990. One in four people is estimated to have private dental care.

Health Minister Alan Milburn said: "If the BDA had its way, the Government would hand over public money willy-nilly without properly scrutinising how it is to be used.

"We won't do that. For any bid to be approved under the Investing In Dentistry scheme it has to satisfy the criteria we have set out.

"It is for the local dentists and local health authorities to put together bids that match the criteria.

"So far 240 have, and we have allocated £6m to them. Those IID schemes are providing NHS dental care to an extra 600,000 patients who would not otherwise have had access to an NHS dentist.

"There are more bids in the pipeline which are currently being processed."

Mr Milburn added that the government had also allocated £10m to provide NHS dental care for children in poorer communities.



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