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NHS Dentists Shortage worsens over New Contracts

Official figures released have shown that over 1,600 dentists have quit the NHS rather than sign new contracts. Around one in 10 has rejected Labour's reforms//, which has left around one million patients without an NHS dentist.

Besides this another lot of dentists are still "in dispute" over the changes. If their issues are still not resolved, they will be forced to leave the Health Service and switch to private practice.

Since the introduction of the controversial contract in April the number of NHS dentists has fallen from 21,111 on March 31 to 19,642 on June 30.

The reforms replaced 400 separate payments with three pay bands, ranging from a check-up costing £15 to more complex work costing £190. They were aimed at improving access to NHS care for patients and were combined with a recruiting campaign that brought more overseas dentists here than ever before.

Although Health Minister Rosie Winter admitted that hundreds had left the NHS at the time of the contract she denied it was a mass exodus.

According to the Dental Practitioners' Association, which represents High Street dentists, the figures showed eight per cent of NHS dentists had left in just three months.

Chief executive Derek Watson said: "In addition to the fact that the number of dentists has fallen by 1,649, each dentist will be doing less work on the NHS making the access problem worse. Private treatment has now overtaken NHS treatment as dentists' main source of income."

"This ties in with the results of our survey that confirmed anecdotal evidence of high levels of dissatisfaction with the new NHS dental contract introduced in England on 1st April 2006, in which 98 per cent of respondents said that the target-driven system is affecting their clinical decisions."

Several dentists who signed the contract "in dispute" over the terms and conditions, says it did not allow them to provide a quality service to
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