4.7m choose private dentists12th February 2008
Roger Matthews, Chief Dental Officer at Denplan, writes in The Telegraph in response to a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) survey which estimated 4.7 million people in the UK choose private dental care.
The CAB survey has been well publicised, but its results are not a shock to patients or to those dentists treating them.
This latest reports form one of a "series" which covers the "crisis" in NHS dentistry, including reports by Which? and the Public and Patient Involvement Forums.
The introduction of new dental contracts in the health service in 2006 have prompted critics to argue that they do not provide "preventive, or equitable care".
The NHS felt the effects of the contracts, with around 500 to 1,000 dentists leaving public health care. Official data revealed that 50,000 less patients had been seen by the NHS in 2006/07 in comparison to 2005/06.
The press has reported how the new contracts and targets have made dentists feel they must conduct their business in an "artificial" fashion. The new measuring system - Units of Dental Activity (UDAs) - has not been tested before.
Although there are increased numbers of dental students training, the UK had been "until recently...under-supplied with dentists, compared to many Western nations".
The CAB survey shows that "the supply and demand equation is still not met" and as a consequence, people are unable to see a NHS dentist.
Denplan research revealed that around 25% of the adult population (11.5 million people) chose to receive private dental treatment because they could not gain access to a health service practitioner.
In those households with low incomes, private dentistry is not affordable. This means about one-fifth do not receive any dental treatment at all.
The CAB report has prompted the Health Department in London to say that funding for NHS dentistry will rise by 11% in 2008/09.
The question must be asked if this will have an effect by April 2009. At this time, a "three-year transition period puts dentistry entirely into the hands of local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs)".
Dentists are concerned that control by PCTs will see their budgets "swallowed up" by the larger health service budget. Some 47% of dentists did not meet their contractual targets last year, which could lead to expensive "claw-backs" from practices.
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