Inquiry into NHS dentistry12th December 2008
An independent inquiry has been ordered by government ministers into the continuing problems of accessing NHS dentistry in England.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced the probe after conceding that while investment in NHS dentistry had risen and undergraduate training places were up, there were still people who had difficulty finding an NHS dentist.
He said: "It is disappointing that despite this investment there remain areas of the country in which people are unable to find an NHS dentist.
"I have appointed the independent review team to help us understand what more needs to be done to ensure that every person who wants to visit an NHS dentist can do so."
The new dental contract was introduced in April 2006 to improve access for NHS patients but figures show that in the two years since, 1.2 million fewer patients visited an NHS dentist than did prior to the reforms.
It has also proved unpopular with dentists who say there is no financial incentive to carry out more difficult work.
A review team will look closely at the current provision and report back to the government early next year.
Shadow Health Minister Mike Penning said: "Many of the serious problems with patient access and the drastic reduction in complex treatments could have been prevented had Labour piloted the contract properly before imposing it. This review is in fact little more than an admission of failure."
The British Dental Association welcomed the review and said it places the Department of Health "on a path to addressing those problems".
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