£10k per practice for modernisation
 

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£10k per practice for modernisation

 

£10k per practice for modernisation

Health Minister Rosie Winterton’s speech at the BDA conference was not one of her best.

There was some ironic cruelty in having her follow the slick, well-rehearsed and often-told, after-dinner speech of Michael Portillo. He came across as a jolly nice chap, but then again he does not have the pressures of office; and I remember his days very well. In comparison, Rosie, in a packed auditorium, stuttered her way through her four key areas.

Rosie admitted she was aware of disagreements between the profession and the government over the new contract, and cited them as a reason for her creating a new group to review the impact of the reforms. She also said that the new group would look at changes that might need to be introduced at a national level as well as changes that might be needed locally. Rosie was pleased to announce that the British Dental Association had just joined the implementation review group.

The minister also announced that 96% of practices had signed the new contract, but that does not tell the full story – how many practices are signed with unresolved disputes.

But the biggest news to come from the conference was the massive £100m the minister made available for capital investment for modernisation of NHS dental practices.

The amount, to be spread over two years, is earmarked for
infrastructure improvements for NHS practices. The minister also chipped in that it should help PCTs work better with dentists and that she is going to work with the BDA to identify the best way to appropriate the funds.

This is an extraordinary amount of money. According to Dentistry magazine’s statistics, there are over 10,000 dental
practices in the UK (NHS and private). Even if every practice
qualified for a grant (which they would not) the amount per practice works out at £10,000 per practice minimum, which is a decent sum, am sure you’ll agree. Therefore Dentistry will be campaigning heavily and asking searching questions of this government, to make sure the money, and all the money, gets to dentists and dental practices.

The question and answer session that followed left me slightly disappointed. Not in the minister’s answers to questions, but with the quality of questioning she was subjected to. Apart from Ian Anderson (featured on the front cover), the profession failed to take an impressively long 45-minute opportunity to really hammer home feeling about the new contract at grass-roots level. A stranger to the political scene would be excused for thinking the new contract might actually be working!

Questions asked started with: why did you not introduce a review group 18 months ago; is orthodontics high on the agenda for government investment; followed by, an improvement…why was the new contact not discussed and why were practices given no time to decide their future? Then it heated up as one dentist described dealing with the PCTs like ‘shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic’.

In summary, the minister attended expecting a roller coaster of a ride from angry dentists. She expected oblivion but it never really materialised. But then again she did bring sweets!

Julian English
Executive editor
julian@dentistry.co.uk

 Posted on : Wed 7th - Jun - 2006

 

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