Impossible access
 

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Impossible access

 

Impossible access

New contracts have made universal access to NHS dentistry ‘almost impossible’, an MP has claimed.

Figures obtained by Sandra Gidley, the Liberal Democrats' health spokeswoman, show the average number of units of dental activity (UDA) allocated for each member of the population is equivalent to little more than a single routine check-up per year.

Mrs Gidley, who represents the Hampshire constituency of Romsey, said thenumber of UDAs allocated to dentists for 2006/7 by the five primary care trusts of her home county was equivalent to 1.2
per person.

UDA averages

New Forest PCT, for example, covered a population of 171,500 and had distributed just 171,546 UDAs, leaving on average of just one UDA per person.

One UDA is equivalent to a single check-up or one crown fitting. A filling is worth three UDAs while fitting dentures uses up 12 UDAs.

Mrs Gidley said that while Prime Minister Tony Blair promised in 1999 that everyone who wanted access to an NHS dentist would have it by 2001, the allocation of UDAs under the new contracts had ensured universal access to NHS dentists was ‘almost impossible’.
She said: ‘My postbag has been filled to the brim with constituents' concerns over their struggle to find an NHS dentist but the Government has failed to tackle the shortage.

Government rations

‘With the newly dreamt up concept of units of dental activity, the Government is strictly rationing access to NHS dentists.
‘This is indicative of Labour's failure to restore the NHS to what it should be - a universal, comprehensive service that provides ongoing health care to everyone who needs it.’

The new contracts, introduced on 1 April, replaced payment-per-item with three bands of treatment and charges. Dentists receive their salary once they reach their UDA target.
Initial figures showed that 2,000 dentists chose to quit the NHS rather than sign up to the new contracts. For patients the new system raised the cost of a check-up from £6 to £15.50 and a filling from £8 to £42.40.

NHS treatment

Barry Cockcroft, acting chief dental officer for the NHS in England, pointed out that the proportion of people who used NHS dentistry under the old system was never more than 60% - although he reiterated the Government's aspiration that everyone who wanted ‘needs-based’ treatment on the NHS should be offered it.
Mr Cockcroft told Dentistry magazine: ‘These mathematical calculations are based on the assumption that everyone should visit their dentist in one financial year.

‘But guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence says that it is not necessary.’

Private treatment

‘Some people prefer to choose to have private treatment anyway and some will have salaried treatment provided directly by PCTs.
‘If the amount of public money spent in dentistry is spent properly we can grow services.’

 Posted on : Tue 16th - May - 2006

 

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