Majority of dentists opposed to contract proposals: survey

Nearly 60% of high street dentists will either reduce their NHS commitment or quit the NHS altogether in protest at government proposals, according to new research from the British Dental Association (BDA).

The figures, which form part of a major consultation exercise by the association, showed that dentists have "little confidence" in the government's plans for NHS dentistry in England and Wales in April 2005. The consultation also found that just one-in-five dentists thought the government had listened to their concerns, according to the 20,000 members strong association.

Just 2% of high street dentists said that they would increase their NHS work on the back of the government's proposals, while a 16% said that they would stop providing NHS dentistry altogether.

The government is proposing that dentists should work under primary care trusts and local health boards – abandoning nationally negotiated contracts in favour receiving payments per patient.

John Renshaw, chair of the BDA's Executive Board, said that the NHS dental service was now at "breaking point" – with too few dentists, too little investment and too little time to give patients the care and treatment they deserve.

"Barely a week goes by without yet another story about the difficulties patients are facing to get NHS dental care. We have a highly dedicated workforce out there who want to be able to provide a service that is about more than the drill-and-fill treadmill. Dentists want to help patients manage their own dental care, to offer prevention advice, but neither the current system nor the proposed new one allows that to happen," he added.

Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Paul Burstow said that the root cause of the current crisis was the "botched Conservative contract of the 1990s".

"Government claims that everyone has access to an NHS dentist are a kick in the teeth for people across the country who cannot get registered at their local dental surgery. With so few dentists accepting new NHS patients, people are forced into queuing down the street when NHS places become available," he said.


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