HC Deb 19 November 2003 vol 413 cc1107-9W
Mr. Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many national health service dentists there were in each year between 1997 and 2003. [135370]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The table shows the number of national health service dentists on a head count basis in England at September each year from 1997 to 2002. Information for 2003 is not yet available.

Information is not available on a whole time equivalent (wte) basis because dentists working in the general dental service dentists (CDS) are self employed dentists who are not required to work standard hours and who are free to vary their working time if they wish.

NHS dentists cover dentists working in the GDS, hospital dental service, community dental service, personal dental service (PDS) and salaried dentists working in the GDS. Dentists working in more than one dental service are included in each service, apart from dentists working in both the PDS and the GDS, who are counted in the GDS only.

align="centr"NHS Dental Services: Number of dentists in England
September each year Number of dentists
1997 20,393
1998 20,887
1999 21,435
2000 21,728
2001 22,321
2002 23,183

Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, (1) what plans he has to increase spending on the provision of dentures; and what discussions he has had with the General Dental Council on the provision of dentures; [136753]

(2) what plans he has to prevent the illegal (a) production and (b) fitting of dentures; and what estimate he has made of the level of illegal (i) production and (ii) fitting of dentures. [136754]

(3) if he will introduce an agreed qualification in denturism to permit clinical dental technicians to deal directly with the public. [136755]

Ms Rosie Winterton

Dental appliances are manufactured to the prescription of a registered dentist, mostly in privately owned laboratories, which have to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Agency (MHRA) under the Medical Devices Regulations 2002. We are working with the General Dental Council and the profession to provide for the registration of dental technicians including clinical dental technician (CDTs). As a result, members of both professions will need to be appropriately trained and qualified. The registration of CDTs will enable suitably qualified members of the profession to both supply and fit dental appliances thereby legalising the practice of denturism.

No prosecutions have been undertaken against dental laboratories which have failed to register under the Medical Devices Regulations. The vast majority of breaches of the Regulations are resolved with the co-operation of the manufacturer in line with the Government's Concordat on Enforcement without the need for prosecution. The MHRA investigates and resolves all potential breaches that are drawn to their attention. Information on the illegal fitting of dentures is not held centrally.

Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will state(a) the reasons for compulsory retirement in dentistry and (b) the age limit for this retirement. [138196]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The National Health Service (General Dental Services Supplementary List) and (General Dental Services) Amendment Regulations 2003 amend the National Health Service (General Dental Services) Regulations 1992 by changing the age at which a dentist must be removed from a dental list from 65 to 70 years of age. A dentist so removed may continue to assist in the provision of general dental services after the age of 70 years.

The NHS Pension Scheme's current normal retirement pension age is 60. Members may stay in the scheme until age 70 but from age 60 they may retire and take a pension voluntarily without reduction.

Any member still employed at age 70 may take their retirement pension and continue working in the NHS.

Dentists, along with all other NHS Pension Scheme members are able to retire with benefits from age 50 on a voluntary basis. The voluntary early retirement from age 50 is payable with actuarially reduced benefits.

Mr. Weir

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in the European Union on regulations on services that may be provided by dental technicians within the European Union. [138221]

Ms Rosie Winterton

Working practices and any legislative controls for dental technicians vary across the countries of the European Union. We intend that the General Dental Council's proposals for registration should aid the development of common standards to assist freedom of movement within Europe.

Mr. Weir

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what recent discussions he has had with representatives of dental technicians regarding regulations relating to their position in providing dental services; [138223]

(2) what recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Executive and (b) Welsh Assembly regarding regulations on the provision of dental services within the UK by dental technicians; [138224]

(3) what recent discussions he has had with the General Dental Council on the role of dental technicians in providing dental services. [138225]

Ms Rosie Winterton

Dental technicians are key members of the dental team. All the Health Departments in the United Kingdom have indicated their support for the General Dental Council's proposals for the registration of dental technicians. This will ensure that they are properly trained and acquire registrable qualifications, which have been identified in consultation with the profession. We plan to put the necessary legislative changes in place during 2004 and intend that registration arrangements should give new impetus to the training and recruitment of dental technicians.

Mr. Beith

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting time before dentists qualified overseas can take the qualifying examinations to practise in the UK has been over the last five years. [135917]

Ms Rosie Winterton

[holding answer 10 November 2003]The International Qualifying Examination (IQE), which is the General Dental Council's (GDC) statutory examination for the purpose of gaining admission to the United Kingdom dentists register, was introduced on 1 January 2001. Since then, the number of dentists applying to take the examination has increased from some 150 to nearly 200. Average waiting times for the three parts of the IQE since that date are shown in the table.

Part A Part B Part C
2001 2.75 4.5 7.4
2002 4.25 5.5 10
2003 5.75 7.5 10

The figures exclude candidates who have asked for the timing of the examination to be delayed. Information for the years prior to the introduction of the IQE is not available. The GDC has increased Part C capacity for 2004 and waiting times should be shortened significantly, with some candidates given only three months wait to sit Part C.