Dentists abandon 115,000 on NHS

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 115,000 patients lost their National Health Service dentists in July and August, and David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, warned yesterday of the risk of the dentists' exodus reaching crisis levels.

He said: 'There is very little point in the Government ordering a fundamental review of dentists' pay, to be ready in 1993, when there is a risk of the current level of NHS deregistrations turning into a flood.'

In July, the Government urged dentists not to take 'precipitate or damaging action' by terminating their NHS practice, pending the result of the inquiry by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil

Service.

But the Department of Health said on Friday that dentists had deregistered 118,859 NHS patients - by quitting the public service - in the past two months alone.

Family health service authorities in the South told the Independent last week there were 'blackspots' where dentists no longer accepted NHS patients - and alternative NHS treatment was available only for those willing to travel some distance.

Those identified by authorities prepared to discuss the problem include St Neots, Princes Risborough, Buckingham, and Newport Pagnell.

In Horsham, West Sussex, no dentists were accepting new NHS patients and at Abingdon and Wallingford, in Oxfordshire, no new NHS adult fee-paying patients were being taken on.

When the problems faced by the Prime Minister's Cambridgeshire constituency of Huntingdon were raised in the Commons last June, John Major told the House: 'There is no question of anyone needing to go without a National Health Service dentist in Huntingdon. If necessary, the local family health service authority will seek agreement from the Secretary of State for Health to employ salaried dentists.'

The Cambridgeshire authority is currently receiving about 50 calls a day from people searching for an NHS dentist.

The Department of Health said the number of salaried dentists in England had more than doubled, from 25 to 62, since March.

Nineteen authorities have been authorised to employ salaried dentists: Bromley, Kent; Buckinghamshire; Cambridgeshire; the City and east London; Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; Derbyshire; Essex; Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster; Greenwich and Bexley; Hampshire; Kent; Kingston and Richmond; Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham; Liverpool; Northumberland; Sandwell; Somerset; West Sussex; and Wiltshire.

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