§ Mr. Weetch
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what is the average length of time for a section 21 appeal in the general dental service to be heard; and what plans he has for speeding up appeal hearings;
- (2) what criteria are used when selecting referees for section 21 appeals;
- (3) if he will make it his policy to restrict the appointment of referees in section 21 appeals to those currently on the dental list of a family practitioner committee;
- (4) if he will enlarge the list of referees for section 21 appeals (i) by accepting nominations from the General Dental Practitioners Association and (ii) by including all those on the dental list of family practitioner committees who are prepared to carry out this duty.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The average time from the date of an appeal under regulation 21 of the National Health Service (Service Committees and Tribunal) Regulations to the 683W hearing is six months. Additional staff have been recruited and the number of referees available has also been increased to cope with a very large increase in the number of appeals since 1983.
In accordance with the regulations referees are selected from two lists of dentists. The first list comprises dentists selected by the British Dental Association, which is recognised as representative of the dental profession. The second is drawn up by my Department and comprises dentists of good standing who have indicated their willingness to serve. For each hearing one referee is selected from each of the two lists. My Department is always willing to consider any dentist who is willing to serve as a referee for inclusion in the list.
The selection of referees for individual hearings is primarily a question of their location, availability and, for cases where specialist knowledge is desirable such as orthodontics, relevant expertise.
The vast majority of dentists appointed as referees are currently in contract with family practitioner committees. I have no plans however to confine the appointment of referees to such dentists.