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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 01:36 GMT
Government's dental drive continues

The government wants more people to have NHS dentists

The government has revealed more details on Wednesday of its strategy to improve the nation's dental health.

The measures are expected to include plans for drop in dentistry centres which patients without their own NHS dentist can visit.

Approximately 34 "Phone and Go" centres are to be set up.

Other parts of the strategy include the creation of a phone line to advise patients where their nearest NHS dentist is.

The government's main health advice line, NHS Direct, will be able to direct patients to emergency dental services.

The government also wants to create mobile dental clinics to help people who cannot find a local NHS dentist.

NHS patients pay 80% of the dental charges, with the remainder paid by the NHS.

Mobile clinics welcomed

Dental organisations claim that there are simply not enough NHS dentists to allow access for all.

Dr Sue Greening, Chair of the British Dental Association┐s Central Committee for Community and Public Health Dentistry, says: "Our calculations suggest that these centres will need to be staffed by at least 150 dentists.

"We are concerned that many of these dentists will come from the Community Dental Service (CDS), which cares for patients with special needs like schoolchildren, the elderly and people with disabilities.

"Any drop in staffing levels in the CDS could affect the availability of care for these vulnerable patients.┐

Many dentists do not find the NHS fee scheme lucrative enough, and that the demand for private work is high enough to support their entire practice.

The British Dental Association estimates that 75% of dentists still spend 75% of their time carrying out NHS work. However, the remaining quarter spend a greater proportion of their time on private work.

The BDA estimates that there are now two million fewer adults registered with a dentist than there were when Labour came to power.

However, it welcomed the idea of using mobile clinics in rural areas unsupported by normal practices.

The idea of the strategy is to tackle five "challenges" in dentistry, which are:
  • To reduce inequalities in oral health
  • To improve the population's access to NHS dental services
  • To play a part in providing more integrated health services to patients
  • To guarantee the high quality of service patients expect
  • To allow all members of the dental team to use their full potential to improve patients' services
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See also:
08 Oct 98 |  Health
Drive to boost NHS dentistry
30 Apr 99 |  Health
Plans for mobile dental clinics
28 Sep 99 |  Health
Blair: NHS dentistry for all

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