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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
My 'dentists forced to take holidays'
Dentists are taking enforced holidays or having days off because local health chiefs have run out of money to pay them.

This comes just a year after a new contract came in which was meant to solve the problems many people face finding a dentist.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen
Dentists are being forced to take holidays and time off

NHS Dentist is unique among dental practices in that it solely treats NHS patients.

Most surgeries share their time between private and NHS patients.

But the West London practice refuses to do private work - and ultimately that means it is having to send its staff on holiday.

Lead dentist Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: "There are 11 dentists in our practice but we only have one working at the moment.

We could treat them privately but we believe in the NHS system and don't want to start offering private treatment
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, an NHS dentist

"The others are either lying in bed or on holiday, we don't want that to be the case but don't have any alternative.

"We have asked for more money, but have been refused it.

"So it means that we have had to say to patients you are not going to get treatment for a while.

"We could treat them privately but we believe in the NHS system and don't want to start offering private treatment."

Patients have been philosophical about the problem. Julie Egonidis had to wait for three months for fillings.

"There was little I could do. I needed this in December but had to wait until March."

Local health chiefs say the have tried to be as flexible as possible.


And Mr Overgaard-Nielsen agrees they are not to blame.

Instead, he said his practice is a victim of the new contract, which started last April.

Under the system, local health chiefs working for primary care trusts were given responsibility for providing dental services and a budget of 2.3bn to do that.

But a quarter of this money was expected to come from patients charges - most adults pay towards the cost of their care.

However, many PCTs have not made as much as expected in charges, leaving them with no money to pay dentists in recent months.

Mr Overgaard-Nielsen said: "The problem lies with the system. The government used what was happening a few years ago to work out the budget, but since then we have expanded and now we are being penalised."

Health minister Rosie Winterton interviewed

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31 Jan 07 |  Health
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