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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"The government must reverse the current exodus of NHS dentists into the private sector"
 real 56k

John Renshaw from the British Dental Association
"What we've been given is ministerial doublespeak"
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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 05:07 GMT 06:07 UK
100m dentistry plan criticised
Committed NHS dentists will be well rewarded
Four million people who do not have access to an NHS dentist should be helped by a 100m government initiative, being launched on Tuesday.

The package includes an 18m reward scheme to encourage dentists away from lucrative private work and into more NHS sessions.

But the scheme has failed to find favour with the British Dental Association, which condemned it as "ministerial doublespeak".

Dr John Renshaw, the chairman of its executive board, told the BBC that 40m of the 100m had already been promised to NHS dentistry in other government initiatives.

The huge rise in the numbers of dentists who do private work means a third of health authorities have reported problems finding NHS practices.

We recognise that the traditional system is failing some patients

Health minister, Lord Hunt
The new strategy, which will implement parts of the NHS national plan, pledges that by September 2001 "everyone can get NHS dentistry if and when they need it".

Changes to be introduced include:

  • Dental access centres to be set up in areas where there are shortages of NHS practices to provide treatment.
  • Better information for patients, setting out exactly what they can expect to pay for under an NHS dentist.
  • A 35m revamp of dental surgeries.
  • Financial rewards for dentists who work mainly for the NHS, that could see their pay go up to almost 60,000 a year.

    Health minister Lord Hunt said: "We recognise that the traditional system is failing some patients and there are still far too many patients who have problems finding an NHS dentist.

    "That will change. We are giving the NHS the resources, tools and flexibility it needs to find new solutions."

    "We do want to attract more dentists back to the profession ... particularly women," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    "We have also introduced a #35 million modernisation scheme which will update dental premises and kit. We are showing our faith in dentists who are sticking to the NHS."

    'Inadequate funding'

    A statement from the British Dental Association said: "We are disappointed that there is nothing very new in the strategy and that our long-standing concerns about inadequate funding of all sectors of NHS dentistry have not been fully addressed.

    "The 100m announced for NHS dentistry over two years includes 40m already announced earlier this year."

    Dr Renshaw added: "We will be pleased if the new strategy helps to improve access for some patients.

    "However, unless the government addresses the grave funding crisis in NHS dentistry, dentists will continue to leave the NHS and there will be no hope of a permanent recovery."

    Responding to the strategy, shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox described it as "yet another step in the disillusionment of the British people with Labour's handling of dental issues".

    "Labour are now so far removed from reality that it's a wonder Alan Milburn hasn't recruited the tooth fairy," he said.

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