Ministers embarrassed by the sight of long lines of people trying to sign up for an NHS dentist have come up with a simple solution: they have banned queues. All future registrations must take place over the phone or by appointment.
The Government is locked in a battle of wills with the British Dental Association (BDA) over government reforms. The Government wants dentists to take on more NHS patients in return for an £80,000 salary, £80,000 in expenses and a new monitoring system. Dentists say that the contract does not allow enough time for preventative work. They also want the monitoring suspended, claiming that it is too complicated.
The government is pushing ahead with the reforms from April 1 despite threats of a mass exodus of dentists to the private sector.
Hanging over the reforms is the pledge made by Tony Blair in 1999 that within two years everyone would be able to see an NHS dentist. This has not happened.
Under the reforms, six-monthly NHS check-ups will end, with healthy patients told not to return for three years.
From April, the current roster of 400 different charges for treatments will be replaced by just three:
- £15.50 — examination, diagnosis and preventative care including X-rays, scale and polish
- £42.40 — fillings, root canal treatment, extractions
- £189 — complex courses of treatment and procedures such as the fitting of crowns, dentures or bridges
- No charge — writing a prescription, removing stitches, repairs to dentures
Patients are caught in the battle between dentists and government. The simple solution is to buy dental insurance!