Cash boost to bring dentists into NHS

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The Government will announce today an extra pounds 10m to get more dentists to treat patients on the NHS.

The money will boost a scheme called "Investing in Dentistry" which was launched in September in an attempt to reverse the exodus of dentists from the NHS under the Tories.

Many dentists reluctantly dropped NHS work, and went private, in protest at the failure to raise their fees from the NHS work, and a massive increase in the amount of paperwork they had to do.

The health minister, Alan Milburn, has privately told colleagues he wants to make the revival of NHS dentistry one of his priorities in the coming year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the tax-based health service, free and in conception based on need, not the ability to pay.

The extra cash will expand existing practices or set up entirely new ones, to increase the numbers of NHS-registered patients. It could include training and back-to-work packages for dentists who have taken career breaks, or start-up programmes for trainees to set up in general practice.

He is also announcing today that pounds 415,000 will be spent to lay the ground for 25 personal dental services pilot schemes as part of the drive to improve primary care.

The pilot schemes, which will begin in October 1998, include a practice in Cambridgeshire which will focus more on preventative work; a specialist orthodontic referral service in Bedfordshire; and the provision of more general anaesthetic sessions for dentists to work in hospitals on the NHS in Northumberland.

Other schemes will including block contracts for extractions in Avon; attempts to reduce inequalities in disease and treatment in Lambeth, south London; a one-stop centre in Bromley, south-east London; and the use of a salaried dentist service in the Scilly Isles to create a safety net in an area where patients have severe problems in getting access to NHS dentistry.

- Colin Brown

Chief Political Correspondent