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Tom Brake Gets His Teeth into Dentistry in Parliamentary Debate

July 5, 2007 11:22 AM

Tom Brake MP used his debate with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Ann Keen MP, on Tuesday to highlight the real problems people in Carshalton and Wallington face when trying to register with an NHS dentist. Out of the 7,000 people who have so far responded to Tom's Health Survey, no less than 71% reported having difficulties registering with a dentist.

He also pressed the Minister to guarantee long-term contracts for NHS dentists.

Tom Brake said, "within three months of the introduction of the new contract, 1,500 dentists had opted out of the NHS, representing 8 percent of NHS dentists. That is a worrying position."

In his debate he also drew attention to the drop in the percentage of people in Sutton and Merton accessing dental services. This has fallen from 52 percent to 49.7 percent, at a time when in England as a whole the number of patients has remained stable.

In response to Tom's question about guaranteeing contracts and therefore the quality of dental services beyond 2009 (when the current ring-fenced dental contracts end), Under-Secretary of State for Health, Ann Keen, said, "My experience is that when a contract is working well in the NHS, and when we are building on a good relationship with PCTs and dental services, it is obviously wrong to go back on it."

After the debate Tom said, "Although the Minister's comment is helpful, there is still no guarantee that when the current contracts expire, funding for dental services will not be cut to prop up other under-funded services. So dentists are still not able to plan for the future. This is bad news for patients and bad news for dentists."

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