Method of payments to dentists 'discredited'

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The Independent Online
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The present method of paying dentists is 'discredited', according to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health.

In an interview, to be shown on the Panorama programme on BBC television tonight, she says: 'A great deal of money goes into NHS dentistry.' But she adds that the payment system 'is not one that carries the confidence of dentists across the country and therefore we have to find a better way'.

Mrs Bottomley's comments come as the programme shows dentists criticising the present payments system as 'a shambles'. Ministers have set up a review intended to find a better method, which is due to report by the end of the year.

Panorama alleges that the quality of much NHS dental work is poor because the fee structure means dentists have to rush the work they send to laboratories.

A report out later this year is expected to show that half the NHS dental impressions examined had major faults, which would produce defective crowns that could lead to earlier tooth loss.

The programme shows an NHS denture being made alongside one for a private patient, with the NHS one given fewer checks for fit on the grounds that it would be too expensive.

The owner of the Broughton Tyrell dental laboratory, who has 'supported and been part of' the NHS for 45 years, says he has just increased his fees by 30 per cent to a level which will price him out of NHS work.

One dentist complains that he has to work so fast to earn the fees for each item of service that dentists are paid, that he feels like Charlie Chaplin in the film Modern Times, 'Charlie is using the spanners and the machine gets faster and faster . . . I found I am on that machine', he said.

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