Headlines: March 1st, 2006

Just a month before new charges and reforms come into effect in dental services in England a report out today shows patients are worried that they will not have access to a National Health Service dentist and they doubt the Government can deliver on its promises for the service.The research by the consumer organisation, Which?, has uncovered a strong lack of trust in the Government over plans for dental care and the organisation is calling for close monitoring of the effect of the changes in the first few months to see how effective they are.

The results reveal that more than three quarters of patients in England believe it will get harder to find an NHS dentist in the next 12 months. Only three per cent of them think it will get easier with one in ten of people believing the situation will stay the same.

‘Which?’ questioned 855 people about the planned changes in dentistry over the coming year with fieldwork taking place in January, When asked whether they trusted the Government to improve NHS dentistry in the next twelve months almost four out of five said no. Respondents over 55 were even less likely to trust them.

The results show some regional variations, too, with 84 per cent of patients in the West Midlands and 82 per cent in the North West predicting more difficulty in finding an NHS dentist, compared with 65 per cent in London.

Sara Apps, of ‘Which?’ health campaigns said, “The Government has lost public trust in delivering accessible dental treatment to all. The new reforms should in theory help people to find an NHS dentist, but there is still a huge lack of clarity over how they will work in practice.”

She called on the Government to monitor the situation over the next six months to ensure the changes are delivering better access and to be prepared to act if problems are discovered.