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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Millions to improve NHS dentistry
Dentist
Many dentists have abandoned the NHS
The government is to invest 65.2m to improve access to and beef up the quality of NHS dental services.

Some 35m be used to set up new dental surgeries in health centres, and to recruit extra dentists in areas where it is difficult to find an NHS dentist.

Much of the remainder will be used to improve IT facilities within dentistry.

The move follows widespread concern that millions of people are unable to obtain dental care on the NHS as dentists opt to concentrate on better-paid private work.

A survey published earlier this year found over half of dentists' income now comes from treating private patients, and that more than a quarter of UK dental patients now pay privately for their care.

And a report by the Audit Commission published last September showed that 40% of dentists will not take on new NHS patients.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "Today's announcement will allow more patients to see and be treated by NHS dentists."

We want to reward NHS dentists and make practice in the NHS an attractive option
Professor Raman Bedi
The new investment is in addition to 1.2bn which has already been earmarked for NHS dentistry.

An NHS Support Team that has been set up to work with those areas where it is hardest to find an NHS dentist.

Professor Raman Bedi, the Chief Dental Officer for England said: "We are committed to improving the service nationally and locally and have made a good start, but we need to maintain the momentum. This investment is another key step forward in our modernisation plans.

"We want to reward NHS dentists and make practice in the NHS an attractive option.

"I want to see better services for patients and better working lives and careers for dentists and dental teams."

Dentists' welcome

This latest headline grabbing initiative is an offence to the hundreds of thousands of people who are still unable to get NHS dental treatment
Dr Liam Fox
Dr John Renshaw, chair of the BDA Executive Board, said his team had pushed hard for more investment in dentistry.

"We are on the brink of a radical shake-up in NHS dentistry which must be supported by proper levels of funding as well as a motivated workforce if it is to succeed."

Responsibility for commissioning local dental services is to be handed over to Primary Care Trusts by April 2005. The aim is to make services more sensitive to local need.

PCTs will be invited to bid for a share of the 35m, which is being made available over two years.

However, Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox was unimpressed by the announcement.

He said: "This latest headline grabbing initiative is an offence to the hundreds of thousands of people who are still unable to get NHS dental treatment.

"Four years ago Tony Blair pledged in his 1999 Party Conference speech that everyone would be able to see an NHS dentist within two years. Four years later this government is still failing patients. Where are the dentists?"




SEE ALSO:
Cash threat to dental services
17 Aug 03  |  Wales
Dental crisis: Your views
31 Jul 03  |  Wales


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