Health: Threat to dental care

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A change in regulations governing dentists could result in any patient who has not attended within the last 15 months being dropped from the NHS list.

The British Dental Association said the change, introduced in September last year, threatened to deprive up millions of patients of an NHS dentist. The association - which claims up to 5 million patients could be de-registered without their knowledge - is calling for the restoration of the registration period to 24 months.

Dentists are paid pounds 5 a year for every patient on their register to ensure continuity of care. The BDA agreed a reduction in the registration period from 24 to 15 months with the Government last year in order to raise pounds 20m for improvements in children's dentistry. However, the association now says that other changes have yielded savings of pounds 50m and the reduction is no longer required. Figures show that on average patients visit the dentist once every 19 months.