Health minister slams the hype
 

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Health minister slams the hype

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Health minister slams the hype

 

Health minister slams the hype

The dental profession is causing an unprecedented stir in the UK’s media with both national and tabloid newspapers reporting lead news stories.

In The Daily Mail last week, it was reported that dentists are charging six times the NHS rate. It said: ‘Thousands of people are being overcharged by dentists who are increasingly refusing to take clients unless they go private.’ The Consumers’ Association (CA) revealed that private dentists often refused to give estimates, and do not display price lists, added The Daily Mail.

Last month, The Daily Telegraph reported that thousands of children would be denied free NHS dental care from next April because of ‘controversial rules being forced on dentists.’ It added that new contracts mean dentists will not be able to choose which patients they treat on the NHS.

In response to this, The British Dental Association (BDA) said that by making practitioners decide whether to treat all types of NHS patients or none at all, thousands would opt for private-only work. School children are currently exempt from dental charges. This will remain the case, but often children are treated on the NHS while their parents are private patients.

However, a ‘discrimination clause’ in the new contracts states that a dentist will not be able to refuse to treat a patient on the NHS on the grounds of ‘race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition’ continued The Daily Telegraph.

In response to the reports, health minister Rosie Winterton said: ‘Many people complain that they don't understand their bills, and are confused with what is NHS and what is private treatment. The new dental charging system will enable dentists to give a simple answer to patients' questions such as 'what is my NHS treatment going to cost?' and 'what treatment will I get for the money?'
She added: ‘The new system is fairer for all patients – those with low treatment needs will attend less often, and patients with high treatment needs should find their NHS dental treatment cheaper. The system is also good for dentists as it is less time consuming and complicated to administer. ‘Dentists also told us they dislike the current system where they have to claim for every single item of treatment. This outdated way of working – introduced in the post war years to reward dentists – has contributed to dentists reducing their commitment to the NHS in recent years and we are working to reverse that.’

Winterton added that it is wrong to say dentists will be driven out of the NHS by the new contracts. She said: ‘Both dentists and the BDA asked for new contractual arrangements to take them away from the ‘drill and fill’ treadmill.’

In an exclusive interview with Dentistry magazine, the DoH’s Chief Dental Officer, Barry Cockcroft said: ‘The new dental contracts will offer dentists a better deal. Dentists will have a guaranteed NHS contract and their gross NHS turnover will be protected in return for a defined level of NHS commitment for at least three years – this will give them more time with their patients and allow them to plan ahead financially.’

He continued: ‘The new contract also gives patients more protection when dentists reduce their commitment to the NHS.

Currently, funding for an NHS dentist who leaves cannot be re-allocated, so patients lose out. Under the new contract PCTs will hold the budget, allowing them to plan for local needs, and
re-allocate money to provide alternative services to patients when a dentist reduces his commitment to the NHS.’

Meanwhile, BBC Breakfast interviewed dental students last week, to find out whether they were planning to work privately or work for the NHS. One student said: ‘I have so many debts I will automatically work in private dentistry so I can pay them off because I know I will earn more money this way.’

In addition, many tabloid papers have published stories on growing queues for NHS dentists. In The Times last Saturday, it was reported that more than 100 people began queueing at 4am to register with an NHS dentist in Kendal, Cumbria, after hearing the practice would accept 50 new NHS patients.

On the queueing issue, Winterton said: ‘We have committed an unprecedented level of funding for dentistry with an extra £368m invested in improving services. We have increased the number of undergraduate dental places by 25% and will have recruited the equivalent of 1,000 extra dentists by the end of this month.’

Don’t miss Dentistry’s special independent supplement on the new contractual arrangements for dentists, which will be out with the
10 November issue.


 Posted on : Tue 1st - Nov - 2005

 

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