Anger over dentist changes

DENTISTS across Suffolk have today expressed fears they may be forced to quit the NHS if changes to their funding are introduced.They say the latest moves, which will see the control of funding handed over to local Primary Care Trusts, are another blow to a profession already under immense pressure.

DENTISTS across Suffolk have today expressed fears they may be forced to quit the NHS if changes to their funding are introduced.

They say the latest moves, which will see the control of funding handed over to local Primary Care Trusts, are another blow to a profession already under immense pressure.

Bruce Johnson, who runs a practice in Foxhall Road, Ipswich, said: "The changes are potentially very dangerous, but the funding is only one aspect of the problem.

"There are simply not enough dentists to work in the NHS. It's a problem that's been emerging over the last ten years - there's just not enough people training.


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"The reason I came to Foxhall Road and set up here is because I believe in the policy of providing treatment for all, regardless of their income.

"I have no desire to become a private dentist but, on the other hand, if it's made impossible for me to carry on in the NHS, what am I to do?"

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Under the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, by April 2005 all PCTs will take control of the £1.2 billion dental services budget from central Government.

The change will mean that PCTs will either have contracts with dentists to provide dental care or will provide the services themselves.

The plans will also see dentists receiving a fee per patient rather than a fee per treatment they carry out.

A consultation by the British Dental Association (BDA) found that 59pc of high street dentists said they would either cut their NHS commitment or quit in protest over the modernisation plans.

Staff shortages are already so severe that many dental practices are being forced to recruit from countries across Europe.

Mr Johnson said: "When a colleague left last year it took us four or five months to replace them. In the end I had to advertise on the internet and eventually got some one from Spain, who I had to put up in my house for two months while she and her family got settled.

"She's a brilliant dentist but that's not the way it should be."

Mark Crowe, a dentist at the Great Colman Street practice in the town, said: "Only yesterday I was interviewing someone from Hungary. We've been advertising here for months but to no avail, so I've had to start looking towards the new EU member states.

"At the moment we don't know how the changes in funding will affect us but it is worrying because we can't begin to plan for the future."

Dentist from across the county are holding an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the implications of the new proposals.

What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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