Shortage of dentists knocks hole in IDH profits

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The Independent Online

The serious shortage of dentists has got worse, Integrated Dental Holdings admitted in a profits warning yesterday. It is stepping up efforts to recruit in Europe.

IDH had already warned in June that problems in filling dental vacancies as they arose "could be expected to hold back income levels in the short term".

A trading statement issued yesterday, ahead of the financial year end this Friday, said: "Vacancy levels have continued to rise and at 24 October stood at 55. These recruitment difficulties will result in our full-year results being materially below current market expectations." The statement knocked the group's shares, which fell 4.5p to close at 29.5p.

The actual results will be released in January.

IDH believes prospects are improving slowly. Matthew Allen, the chairman, said "While we are obviously disappointed to be announcing further bad news, the board does believe that there is now real hope of an improved trading environment for 2004."

IDH said that until recently its efforts to offset the shortage of qualified dentists in the UK by recruiting overseas had been hampered by the imposition of strict English language requirements laid down by the NHS. The rules were relaxed last month to bring them into line with other EU member states. The first arrivals from a subsequent recruitment drive in Spain and Portugal start drilling in December 2003.

IDH, which is based in Bolton, joined the Alternative Investment Market in 1997 and embarked on an ambitious expansion plan that took the number of practices to about 140. That has been reversed with five of the poorer performing practices sold for a total of £800,000 since June.

Contracts have been exchanged to sell another two for £600,000 and several more will follow. Cash from these disposals is being used to reduce debt, which stands at about £15.5m.

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