HC Deb 23 March 1993 vol 221 cc750-1
3. Mr. Chisholm

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many dental checks were carried out on non-exempt patients in (a) 1991–92 and (b) 1988–89.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

From the information available, it is not possible to differentiate between those dental examinations provided to exempt and non-exempt patients.

The total number of dental examinations carried out in 1991–92 in England and Wales was 20.9 million, and in 1988–89 it was 22 million.

Mr. Chisholm

What impact does the Minister expect the imposition of 80 per cent. dental charges and the lack of NHS dentists to have on the number of people coming forward for dental checks? What are the health and financial implications of people not seeking dental treatment because they are deterred by the 80 per cent. charge until they need emergency treatment?

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman will be encouraged to know, as I am, that in the six months during which the regrettable attitude taken by some dentists in the NHS has been progressing, the number of adult patients registered in England has increased by 600,000, contrary to the perception that many people have. We remain of the view—as I believe the Labour party does, although it will not say so—that those patients who are capable of making a contribution towards the cost of their dental treatment should do so.

Mr. Simon Coombs

How many dentists are now being employed directly by family health services authorities?

Dr. Mawhinney

As my hon. Friend rightly implies, the FHSAs have the ability to employ salaried dentists. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] The last time I saw the figure, which was about 10 days ago, it was something over 60. If the figure has moved significantly since then, I will write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. McCartney

I thought that the Minister was coming to the Dispatch Box to apologise for the imposition of the 80 per cent. charges. During 1991–92, 1 million nursing mothers and pregnant women used dental services. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, a personal friend of the Minister of State, is recommending the withdrawal of free dental services for that group of women. Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that, after the Bloomfield report, those women will retain their right to free dental treatment and that he will not impose on them the 80 per cent. charge, which in effect is an 80p in the pound health tax?

Dr. Mawhinney

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have already started to consult on the Bloomfield report, just as we promised that we would. If he would like to come to give me the views of the Labour party, I should be more than happy to hear him, as indeed I was when I consulted the Labour party on the Tomlinson report. We have not yet made any decisions; when we do, we will let the hon. Gentleman know.