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Dentists leave NHS

11th April 2006

10042006_dentist_chair.jpgUp to 1m patients have been left without dentists after about 2,000 dentists walked away from the NHS after not signing the new contract.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said 60% of those who had signed were unhappy with the terms of the contract and could still opt out. The government said it was half that number. It is estimated 10% of dentists refused to sign, these account for just 4% of NHS services as they tended to carry out more private work. Health Minister Rosie Winterton said that claims that dentists would leave the NHS in mass exodus were unfounded.

BDA chairman Lester Ellman said that many dentists have not signed the contract and many more have signed in dispute and could still walk away. The NHS Litigation Authority has already received 500 letters from dentists disputing their contract.

The reforms were meant to introduce a simpler system of fees and reward dentists for carrying out more preventative work, dentists have complained the deal did not live up to expectations. Under the new contract, dentists are being paid a guaranteed income for the next three years for doing 95% of the courses of treatment they have done in the past.

Early figures suggest Avon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the West Midlands have been the worst hit by the walk-out. The failure of a tenth of England's 21,000 dentists to sign the contract is in line with estimates by the BDA. Ms Winterton believes in time access to NHS dentistry will improve as primary care trusts use their new commissioning powers to encourage extra practices to open in under-serviced areas.

Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary, said that the new contract is a bad deal for dentists and a bad deal for patients. Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, added that the long-term future of NHS dentistry looks bleak unless the government urgently review the new contract.

 


 

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