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Dental service needs urgent treatment.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Government ministers should be very concerned about what their futures hold.

They've pumped more money into the National Health Service than anyone ever expected, only to receive brickbats instead of the praise they must have felt they deserved.

They've no one to blame but themselves though, as achievements bought by more funds and new policies have been submerged by troubles of their own making.

It's a situation that won't be improved on this, the first anniversary of the new NHS contracts for dentists, given the latest charges from their professional body.

And even a Government obsessed with measurements as a guide to success, and oblivious to their obvious drawbacks, ought to be able to see there are issues to be addressed.

The British Dental Association tells of worsened access to treatment for patients and complains of dentists being trapped on a treadmill of point scoring that allows them to be paid but discourages preventative work.

The association's story will strike a chord with patients who see at first hand changes in a dental service that are target driven, yet seem to have made nothing better.

An increasing number of dentists feel forced to turn their back on the NHS, often with a genuine sense of discontent that circumstances beyond their control have driven them to take such drastic action.

Feeding the malaise are the funding difficulties of primary care trusts seeking to control expenditure, a cause that's helped by patients deserting the NHS for private surgeries and taking their bills with them.

And lengthening gaps between treatments or forcing patients into multiple, short appointments won't win the satisfaction of the patients who stay, loyally, behind.

If those are "reforms" the new contracts with dentists were intended to bring about, they're not ones patients will recognise as such. Don't expect them to be happy about it either.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2007
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