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NHS dentists run out of money

8th February 2007

10042006_dentist_chair.jpgDentists are running out of cash to treat NHS patients who may now have to wait until Easter to be seen.

Under their new NHS contract, dentists agreed the number of patients they would treat throughout 2006/7, but many underestimated how many they would see.

Research from the British Dental Association says one in four practices expect to go over their agreed limit, forcing many to delay NHS treatments until the new financial year in April.

Several areas of the country are already reporting problems, including Yorkshire, Cornwall and Norfolk, while NHS Direct is seeing a sharp rise in the number of calls related to finding NHS dentists.

Primary care trusts have been instructed by the Department of Health (DH) not to pay out to over-performing dentists – even if patients are facing long delays. The DH has also said dentists should not expect to increase their allocations next year, and even suggested threatening dentists that the 2007/8 allocation would be reduced.

Some areas have responded to the problem by pooling NHS dentists to use up any spare capacity.

The new dental contract was introduced last year to address the shortage of NHS dentists. Dentists agree to provide a set number of NHS treatments for a set price throughout the year.

The DH said most dentists had reacted well to the new contract and that urgent dental care would still be available when needed. The reforms aim to allow dentists to re-invest time saved by carrying out simpler treatments in preventative care.



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