NHS access problems highlighted
 

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NHS access problems highlighted

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NHS access problems highlighted

 

NHS access problems highlighted

Patients have found no improvement in gaining access to an NHS dentist a year after the introduction of the new contract, according to three separate surveys.

A British Dental Association (BDA) poll of 394 dentists found the majority of them did not think the new regulations had made it easier for patients to receive NHS treatment.

Citizens Advice said two million patients did not have access to an NHS dentist and were being forced to go private, go on waiting lists or do without. And finally a Which? survey of dentists found that two-thirds were turning away patients.

However, the government insisted improvements were being made and it was a step forward in comparison to the old system.

As previously reported, PCTs have revealed over the last few months that they have not been making as much in patient charges, leaving many with a shortfall.

The Citizens Advice report, titled 'Gaps to Fill', said this problem should be solved by providing extra funds for targeted areas where there is a shortage of services. The report was compiled from evidence given by nearly 4,000 of its clients, research on the 152 PCTs and government statistics. It said that there had been ‘little evidence of any real growth’ in services and in a quarter of PCTs no dentists were taking on new patients.

Chief executive of Citizens Advice, David Harker, said: ‘It is not acceptable that so many people are still going without dental care, putting not only their own health but often the health of their families at risk.

‘The government reforms so far are welcome, but 12 months on they are nowhere near achieving equal access for all. We believe only further investment targeted in the least well-served areas will achieve this. PCTs now have a statutory duty to provide dentistry services to meet reasonable requirements. This must mean ensuring everyone has local access to this basic health service.’

According to the BDA poll, 85% of dentists believed the new contract had not improved access to NHS services, 97% did not think it had removed dentists from the ‘drill and fill’ treadmill and 93% felt the new system does not encourage a more preventative approach.

Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA's executive board, said: 'When the Government is failing to meet even its own success criteria for the new contract, then it's time for urgent action.

'We now have a reductive, target-driven system that is failing both patients and dentists. The future of NHS dentistry is becoming increasingly fragile and we need action now before it shatters altogether.'

But Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: ‘The overall picture is that, despite the speculation, the number of dentists is growing and rather than leaving they are actually keen to expand their work for the NHS – hardly indicative of a failing system.’

Meanwhile, another survey conducted by health dental plan provider HSA found that the UK public has little faith in the future of NHS dental care.

In a study of over 1,000 consumers, just over half of the respondents believed it’s only a matter of time before NHS dentistry disappears altogether, while 61% of respondents believed that the state of oral health in the UK will deteriorate in the future, and 22% of people are visiting a private dentist because they could not find an NHS dentist in their area.

Stuart Mahoney, spokesperson for HSA, said: ‘It's worrying that the changes made last year to improve NHS dentistry have not instilled faith in the UK public that their dental needs will be efficiently cared for.

‘What's more alarming is that only 36% of people believe the government consider NHS dentistry to be important.’

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, added: ‘It is a concern that people have such little faith in the NHS dentistry system. Certainly it has been a difficult time but the flow of practitioners leaving the NHS does appear to have stopped.

‘Regardless of people's views on the NHS system, regular visits to the dentist are absolutely vital. As well as providing advice and treatment for all manner of oral health problems, dentists are trained to spot early signs of mouth cancer – a condition that kills one person every five hours in the UK alone.’

 Posted on : Tue 27th - Mar - 2007

 

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