'No extra money' in cash grant

Norfolk's dentists' spokesman has dismissed a £850,000 grant to upgrade their practices as “nothing more than a sweetener to encourage dentists to stay in the NHS”.


Norfolk's dentists' spokesman has dismissed a £850,000 grant to upgrade their practices as “nothing more than a sweetener to encourage dentists to stay in the NHS”.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust announced the additional funding yesterday in an attempt to draw attention away from figures revealing nearly one in three children have not seen a dentist for at least two years.

About 340,000 children in the East, and just over half of all adults, have not seen a dentist for at least two years putting them at risk of serious long-term difficulties, according to a report released by the NHS Information Centre on Wednesday.

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Nick Stolls, secretary of the Norfolk dental committee, said: “This will only help to paper over the cracks and inadequacies of the new contract which is simply not working.

“This is not extra money. This is money the Department of Health has given to the PCT which has to be spent on dentistry. The government announced it would spend an extra £60m on dentistry last year, and this is Norfolk's share. This money has not been released as a result of figures showing so many children are not seeing dentists.

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“Some children may not be going to the dentist because their parents can't find an NHS dentist in their area of Norfolk. Parents are going to wonder if it is worth travelling for 30 miles across the county just for a check-up.”

Norfolk PCT spent £21.2m on dentistry in this financial year, and is now inviting dentists to tender for grants from the £850,000 to pay for capital project improvements to their surgeries.

Across the country a quarter of a million fewer patients were seen in the year following the controversial new dental contract. The contract, which came into force in April 2006, was designed to increase the number of patients seeing NHS dentists.

Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP and Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “The reform of the dental contract has been a remarkable failure for this Government.

“It has achieved precisely the opposite of what they intended - and what patients need.

“People still cannot find an NHS dentist in many parts of the country and in many cases the new system doesn't provide enough money for dentists to treat NHS patients towards the end of the financial year.

“When will the government accept reform isn't working and act to reverse the decline of access to NHS dentistry?”

The introduction of the new contract led to 500 dentists leaving the health service and hundreds more closing their practices to new NHS patients. Last month a nationwide survey found that some patients had resorted to pulling out their own teeth.

Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, said: “This contract has failed to improve access for patients and failed to allow dentists to deliver the kind of modern, preventive care they believe their patients deserve.

“It's time that the Government started listening to what dentists and patients are telling them and recognise that urgent action is required to address these problems.”

The chief dental officer, Dr Barry Cockcroft, said: “Changes on this scale were always going to be challenging for the NHS and for dentists and will inevitably take time to bed down.”

“In April 2006 the government gave responsibility for dentistry to the PCT, basically a lump of money to buy dentistry.

“Last year the PCT took a cautious view on dental spending but they have now promised us that they will spend all the money they receive from the Depart of Health for high street dentistry on high street dentistry.”

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