§ 4. Mr. Corbett
To ask the Secretary of State For Health what steps have been taken to ensure that family health services authorities will be able to purchase general dental services in the most cost effective manner.
§ The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)
Family health services authorities do not at present purchase general dental services. Giving them that role is one of the many options identified in Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's report, on which we are currently consulting interested groups.
§ Mr. Corbett
Is the Minister able to tell the House that he has rejected Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's recommendations on withdrawing dental services from 1 million nursing mothers and pregnant women? Does he understand that dental treatment delayed or avoided will cost more in the end and will damage the nation's teeth?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I understand that Sir Kenneth produced a comprehensive report and one that has been widely welcomed and appreciated. We are committed to consulting on it, and those consultations are going ahead and producing ideas from a variety of interested groups on how we should best move forward. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that. When we are in a position to let him have decisions we shall make them available to the House.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether there were more or fewer national health service dentistry through-patients in the first six months of this year? Can he also tell the House how many NHS dentists there are today compared with 1978?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I am happy to be able to tell my hon. Friend that 28 per cent. more dentists are operating in the health service today—the precise figure is 17,871. I am also happy to be able to tell him that, since 1978, there has been an increase of about 8 million courses of adult treatment per year. He will also be encouraged to know that, since 1 July, 640,000 more patients have registered for NHS dental treatment. Those are all records of which the Conservative side of the House can be justly proud.