Dentists 'turning away patients'New dental contract has led to cash shortfall

01 February 2007

 

Dentists are turning away patients because local health bosses are running out of cash, it has been reported.

Figures suggest the government overestimated the total amount of cash that would be collected in patient fees under the new dental contract, according to a memo seen by the BBC.

NHS trusts have cut their budgets in response, with the British Dental Association saying this has led to some dentists refusing patients care.

The memo said dentists were treating more patients than expected who were exempt from having to pay for treatment.

Dental cuts

The Department of Health said trusts should be making £630 million from these fees, making up a quarter of their entire dentistry budget.

But health chiefs have now started warning they will not make enough, leading to cuts, the BBC reported.

Bosses in Yorkshire, London, Surrey, East Anglia and the Midlands all reported problems.

Jackie Sowerbutts, Dental Adviser to Surrey PCT, said the trust had refused a number of requests from dentists for money.

She said: ‘The government totally and utterly changed the system. It is not surprising the estimation (of patient charges) is turning out wrong. Many trusts are in this position.’

Exempt patients

Chief Dental Officer Barry Cockroft said it was too early to tell what the figures might look like at the end of the financial year.

Mr Cockroft played down difficulties, insisting PCTs were commissioning more services under the new system and that extra investment was being put in.

Which? Health Campaigner Frances Blunden said: ‘Patients should never be left without access to treatment. It is difficult enough for UK residents to have access to NHS dentistry in the first place.

‘The Department of Health needs to ensure patients aren’t suffering because of the new dental contract, particularly those who do not have to pay NHS charges.

‘This is a new system and a new responsibility for PCTs, but patients should not be penalised for its teething problems.’

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