HC Deb 21 February 1989 vol 147 c827
6. Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the number of dentists in the National Health Service in 1979 and in the latest available year.

Mr. Mellor

There were 15,293 dentists in the National Health Service in England in 1979 and in 1987, the number was 17,761—an increase of 16 per cent.

Mr. Moss

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for those figures. Does he agree that they hide substantial local variations, and that it is especially welcome that the Government are introducing, on a trial basis, arrangements to encourage dentists to set up in shortage areas by providing financial incentives?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend is right. The sharp increase in the number of dentists working in the NHS is welcome news to everybody, but it disguises considerable variations. For instance, there are twice as many dentists per head of population in North East Thames as in the Trent region. Plainly, we must do something to make the spread more even.

Mr. Key

Will my hon. and learned Friend take another look at his Department's policy of discussing dental issues with only just over half the dentists, who are members of the British Dental Association, and ignoring all the others who are members of the General Dental Practitioners Association, because I, for one, find that confusing?

Mr. Mellor

Our aim is to work with the grain of the profession and I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.