HC Deb 23 March 2004 vol 419 cc721-3W
Mr. Watts

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many vacancies there are for NHS(a) general practitioners and (b) dentists in each primary care trust. [158181]

Mr. Hutton

Information on the number of general practitioners (GP) vacancies in each primary care trust that occurred between 1 April 2002 and 31 March 2003 has been placed in the Library.

The recruitment, retention and vacancy survey is a count of all GP vacancies that have occurred during each year. It will include existing posts that doctors have left and also new posts created to increase the work force, even where they were filled very quickly. The number of vacancies in parts is a result of there being more posts overall, reflecting the Government's plan to increase the GP work force.

In the general dental service dentists are recruited and employed by independent contractors. This information is therefore not available centrally.

Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what incentives are being offered to dentists to practise NHS dentistry in Pendle. [162783]

Ms Rosie Winterton

Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Primary Care Trust has been identified as one of the 16 PCTs where access is a significant problem. The National Health Service dentistry support team is currently working with the PCT to provide advice and guidance on best practice in increasing access and modernising dentistry locally, backed by £9 million nationally. A Dental Action Plan has been developed jointly with the two neighbouring primary care trusts in East Lancashire This plan is wide-ranging, but includes offering incentive grants to dental students willing to practice in the area for three to five years following vocational training, equating to £3,000 per year.

Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research he has(a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the reasons for dentists leaving the NHS for the private sector; and if he will make a statement. [160768]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The Department has not itself commissioned any such research. However, the Department has been aware, through working with the dental profession and from various reports by independent bodies such as the Audit Commission, that there is a high level of discontent amongst dentists with the current arrangements. Dentists tell us that the current remuneration system, which is based on fee for item of service, feels like a treadmill and is the main cause of dissatisfaction among dentists and patients. It gears payments towards treatment rather than prevention and its piecework nature is thought to act as a barrier to dentists agreeing to undertake National Health Service work.

In 2001, the then Chief Dental Officer, Dame Margaret Seward, was invited to lead a working group, comprising representatives from the profession, patient groups and other stakeholders, to look at the options to modernise NHS dentistry, building on the Government's strategy document, "Modernising NHS Dentistry: Implementing the NHS Plan", published in September 2000.

The group's conclusions are set out in "NHS Dentistry: Options for Change", which was published in August 2002. The key themes and priorities that emerged were the need for local commissioning and funding and new methods of remuneration for general dental practitioners.

We have followed up this work by taking powers through the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 to undertake wide-ranging reform of NHS dentistry. Under these proposals, primary care trusts will assume responsibility for commissioning primary dental care services. With these responsibilities will go the financial resources, totalling some £1.3 billion this year (2003–04), which are currently held centrally. These changes are aimed to underpin modernised, high-quality primary dental care services properly integrated with the rest of the NHS and providing better access, improved patient experience and better working lives for dentists and their staff.