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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Dentists in 'drill and fill' row
Dental equipment
Changes are due to come in next April
Government plans to end the so-called "drill and fill" method of paying NHS dentists have been criticised.

A shake-up planned for April would see dentists being paid for overall care on an annual contract basis rather than for each invasive treatment.

But the British Dental Association (BDA) says that would not benefit patients and would add to workloads.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton insisted both patients and dentists could have confidence in the contracts.

Dentists are not really complaining about the amount they earn; they're complaining about the amount of work they have to do to get that money
Lester Ellman
BDA

The BBC's Max Cotton said the changes to NHS dentistry are the biggest since the NHS was founded in 1948.

The current method of paying dentists for each invasive treatment has provoked critics to accuse some dentists of over-treatment.

It is hoped ending the system will free-up time so dentists can carry out more preventative work with patients.

The government insists it has consulted fully with dentists but the BDA - which represents 20,000 members - says ministers are failing to tackle this problem.

It says the new system, which is aimed at modernising NHS dentistry and bringing it into line with other healthcare services, will be "of no value to the profession - merely replacing one treadmill with another".

'No time'

The BDA's Lester Ellman told BBC News he thought the government was missing an opportunity for real reform.

The new plans failed to address the concerns of dentists, he added.

"Dentists are not really complaining about the amount they earn; they're complaining about the amount of work they have to do to get that money and the lack of their ability to spend time with their patients."

But Ms Winterton said dentists and patients could have every confidence in the future of NHS dentistry.

"I have a very strong commitment to making this work because I know very well that the public want to see improvements in NHS dentistry and I am determined to make sure that they happen," she told BBC News.



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