Quick-fix solutions for dentists won't stick

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GIVING dentists cash for relocating to areas in which dentists have largely left the NHS is little different from the cigarette industry giving cash to fund chest clinics in hospitals ("Dentists recruited from overseas for NHS work", 24 September).

Until - or more likely if ever at all - the same ministers who are expounding a welcome for dentists in the hillsides, recognise that it is the very system imposed on the profession in 1990 by Kenneth Clarke with the famous "...good for patients and good for dentists" quote, which has proved to be an unmitigated disaster, the exodus from the NHS will continue.

My profession is beset with alcoholism, breakdowns, divorce and drug problems, and this is in no small part a consequence of the pressure under which dentists are expected to work.

Interestingly, the patient throughput in general practice is double that of a hospital orthodontic department and three times that of hospital restorative dental clinics providing the same treatment that most practitioners are easily capable of.

I used to see 55 patients a day and drank too much, but was able to offer NHS care for all. Now I see 25 patients a day, choose orange juice to drink and earn exactly what I did two years ago. And now, five years after leaving the NHS, I am finding that the patients who left the practice are returning.

Sure, there will be a welcome in the hillside from the "quick fix" health minister in Wales, but it is just a matter of time before the dentists taking the cash see the cliff-edge beckoning. The minister will no doubt have moved on by then.

Paul Carlin BDS