NHS Dental Contract Changes Treatment

A new NHS contract is causing dentists to carry out fewer complex procedures, recent figures have shown.

The latest dental figures, calculated from June 2007 up to June 2009 reveal the effect of a new contract implemented in April 2006. It has shown that the number of dental bridges fitted have almost halved to 80, 000, from the 146,000 treatments carried out in the two years previous. The number of treatments involving root canal have also diminished by 39.4%, while the rate of tooth extractions has risen from 6.9% to 7.5% of treatments. Overall, 489,000 fewer patients have been seen compared to the previous set of results.

These results are collected in two-year sections, due to fact that patients are typically recommended to get a check up once every two years.

Critics have debated that this decrease may relate to the payment system, in which removing a tooth costs the same as treating it, but is quicker. The 2006 contract has also caused such anomalies as one patient paying three times the normal price for their filling, so that the patient would wait for their teeth to deteriorate more before seeking treatment. Claims have been made that patients so desperate for treatment have even removed teeth themselves, using pliers.

While Mike Penning, the shadow health minister called the April 2006 contract “disastrous” and the results a “failure for the profession”, the Chief Dental Officer, Barry Cockcroft, argues that it is a “reflection of changing oral health” and that “the new system is freeing up time that dentists can use to deliver more preventive care”.

Mr Cockcroft also stresses that dentists are “legally and ethically obliged” to perform all necessary procedures and so rejects any notions of neglect in relation to the contract.

Friday 11th September 2009

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