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Fewer people seeing NHS dentist

6th June 2008

New data has shown that the number of people seeing an NHS dentist has fallen since government reforms of the service.

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A report from the NHS Information Centre indicated that 900,000 fewer people are now seeing an NHS practitioner than in 2006.

It shows that in the two years up to December 2007, 53.7% of people in England saw a dentist compared with 55.8% in the two years before the new dental contract.

The NHS Information Centre also says there remain wide variations in access to dental services across England. For that period in the South Central Strategic Area it was 38.9% while in the north east in was 58.3%. The north east also saw 73.4% of children with access to dental services, compared with 64.8% in London.

The new dental contract came into force in April 2006 with the aim of improving the service.

But Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, said: "These figures offer fresh evidence that the reforms have failed to achieve their stated aims.

"They’ve failed to improve access to care for patients and failed to allow dentists to provide the modern, preventive care they want to deliver.

"Instead, this contract encourages sporadic, episodic treatment, rather than the long-term, continuing relationships that dentists and their patients value."

However, chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft said expanding NHS dentistry was a priority with an extra £200 million invested this year and he suggested the Information Centre report failed to reflect that new services are now opening.

 

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