A government report into NHS dentistry has been branded a ‘whitewash’ for failing to properly address patient concerns.
The Liberal Democrats said the study will be of little comfort to patients who still cannot find a dentist in their area.
The report, which examined the first 12 months of a new contract for NHS dentists, acknowledged there were still problems and challenges ahead.
But, it said, primary care trusts (PCTs) had now commissioned more services than were delivered in the last year of the old system.
Patient access to an NHS dentist remained ‘stable’ during the transition period involving the new contract, it added.
The local NHS was also using new powers to establish dental practices in areas where previously there were none.
It went on: ‘Putting right nearly two decades of deterioration in NHS coverage is not the work of 12 months.
‘It will take longer to develop services to a position where all PCTs are able to meet local requirements fully.’
But Which? health campaigner Frances Blunden said the report could not gloss over the real problems people still have finding a dentist.
‘We hear the term postcode lottery time and time again but it’s still happening. Which? research showed 59 per cent of NHS practices in London were taking on new patients compared to just 13 per cent in the North West.
She added: ‘Dentists are continuing to leave the NHS forcing more people to go private. Those who do stick with the NHS are often waiting a long time for treatment, travelling long distances or even finding they can’t get the treatment they need.
‘The Department of Health must now ensure all PCTs are allocated sufficient money for dental resources, but PCTs must be held to account to make sure they are using these resources to meet local needs properly.’
‘Mountain of evidence’
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: ‘This report is almost Orwellian in its interpretation of the truth.
‘It is a total whitewash and will be of little comfort to patients who cannot find a local NHS dentist and is an insult to the many dentists who are forced to turn away patients because of the new contract.
‘Although the report accurately identifies the problems of access to an NHS dentist, it claims that the new contract is improving the situation despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.’
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