Leading article: The NHS dentistry sham

Share

This week a 15-year-old girl living in Eastbourne - let us call her Donna - tried to find an NHS dentist. She comes from a deprived background, is overweight, and her teeth are in a poor state. Despite trailing round dentists all over town, Donna has been unable to find anyone to take her on. One dentist she visited accepted her 15-year-old cousin because his teeth were in good repair but still rejected Donna.

If patients like Donna cannot get dental treatment on the state, then the National Health Service is not worth its name. The fault lies with the new contract, which reduces 400 separate payments into three price bands, because it has created a disincentive for dentists to take on the neediest patients.

First the good news. The new system is simpler and fairer and should encourage preventive work instead of the old-style drilling and filling. The lowest NHS charge of approximately £15 for an examination and report represents a near £10 increase, but the highest charge of £189 for crowns and dentures is about £200 less than the previous top charge. The middle band charge of about £45 covers one to six fillings, previously priced at £10 to £12 each.

Now the bad news. If we take the middle band charge of £45, it is immediately obvious that patients with a couple of fillings lose out, paying roughly twice what they would have been charged previously.

Patients with five or six fillings appear to gain, as their charge drops from more than £70. But it is the dentist who loses out as he is paid about £60 (three units of dental activity) regardless of whether he does one or six fillings.

The idea behind the change is laudable - the dentist now has a financial incentive to improve his patients' dental health because the less work he has to do the better off he will be. But the practical effect of the change can be seen in Eastbourne where dentists have taken one look at Donna's mouth and concluded she is more trouble than she is worth.

Rosie Winterton, the health minister, boasted yesterday that 96 per cent of dentists had finally signed their new NHS contracts. While this means 2,000 dentists have left the NHS - no ground for celebration there - what she now has to answer is how many of them are taking on new patients. Unless they are prepared to do so, the new contract will be a sham.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there