HC Deb 16 March 2004 vol 419 cc243-5W
Dr. Murrison

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to simplify dental fee scales. [161308]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The Government are committed to rebuilding and restoring national health service dentistry to improve oral health. New legislation in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 will underpin a modernised, high-quality primary dental service, properly integrated with the rest of the NHS. The aim is to deliver better access to services, better working lives for dentists and their teams, better oral health and an improved patient experience.

Under the proposals in the Act, primary care trusts (PCTs) will assume responsibility for providing primary care dental services. With these responsibilities will go the financial resources held centrally, which currently amount to £1.2 billion.

As part of the new arrangements, the current remuneration system, which is based on item-of-service fees, will be abolished and replaced by a much simpler contract. Under transitional arrangements we are developing a simple but robust 'base contract' which all dentists and PCTs will be able to put in place from 2005. These transitional arrangements will provide protection of dentists gross earnings for three years to enable them to come off the treadmill of item of service fees, to see their patients at intervals appropriate to their oral health needs and to modernise and adjust their workload. These proposals are set out in "Framework proposals for primary dental services in England from 2005", which was published on 24 February and on which we are currently seeking views from dental representative bodies.

Mr. Watts

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action the Government is taking to increase the number of NHS dentists. [158182]

Ms Rosie Winterton

We have undertaken a review of the dental primary care workforce in consultation with representatives of the dental profession—professional bodies, dental academics, as well as the British Dental Association (BDA). The matters under consideration included the age structure of the dental profession, the increasing number of women dentists, our commitment to develop team-working in dentistry, and the impact of our reforms to the contractual and remuneration arrangements which are intended to make National Health Service dentistry more attractive to dental practices. We intend to publish the report shortly.

We have also worked closely with the BDA to draw up proposals for a new contract from April 2005, which will remove the treadmill of item of service. This links with the new duties primary care trusts (PCTs) will have from April 2005 to secure the provision of primary dental care services. With these new responsibilities will go the financial resources currently held centrally, which by 2005–06 are expected to total nearly £1.5 billion.

These proposals, in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 in relation to primary dental services, represent the most radical reform of NHS dentistry since 1948. They will give a better deal for patients, for dentists and for the NHS and should lead to an increase in the number of NHS dentists.

In the meantime we have provided new investment totalling £90 million to NHS dentistry over the last year. This is aimed at increasing the number of NHS dentists and increasing access to NHS dentistry for patients. £59 million will support access, and strategic health authorities have been advised of their shares and are working with their PCTs to address access issues. £30 million is to support information technology and the balance of £1 million will support organisational development locally.

Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answers of 14 January 2004,Official Report, column 800W and 28 January 2004, Official Report, column 399W, on dentists, what the reasons are for the difference in the total number of NHS dentists and the number of dentists accepting children within some strategic health authorities. [158497]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The information on dentist numbers given in the reply of 28 January 2004,Official Report, column 399W, covered the numbers of principal and assistant dentists. These are dentists in the general dental service (GDS) at September 2003. These figures exclude groups of national health service dentists: vocational dental practitioners in the GDS; salaried dentists in the GDS, dentists in the personal dental service and dentists in the community dental service.

The source of the information in that reply is the Dental Practice Board. Information on which dentists are taking NHS patients is held on the NHS.UK website at www.nhs.uk. The information on that website is provided by primary care trusts. The information will cover all NHS dental providers; not just principals and assistants in the GDS. The information given in the reply of 14 January 2004, Official Report, column 800W, was for the situation on Thursday 4 December. The figures counted dentists in surgeries which were taking new NHS patients.