A sample group of British patients are to be guaranteed treatment by an NHS dentist under reforms the Coalition Government hopes to introduce later this year. Initially 62 dental surgeries have been invited to take part in a pilot project with a view to introducing the new scheme across the country in 2014.
Under current legislation, patients are not automatically entitled to register with an NHS dentist, or visit their usual dentist if there are no available appointments, leading to many patients in densely populated areas struggling to get NHS treatment. The right to dental treatment was removed by Labour five years ago, and as a result the number of patients visiting a dentist dropped by one million in the following two years.
NHS dentists are are also to be paid according to the patients they treat, not the procedures they carry out, which is designed to improve the standard of treatment patients receive. The current system involves setting targets for dentists, leading to concerns that the treatment chosen may not always be the best course of action.
“This approach is not only better for patients, but also a better use of NHS resources,” said Lord Howe, the Coalition’s Health Minister. “We want.. to give dentists the encouragement they are looking for to provide a service that meets the needs of today’s population, and which fosters positive habits from an early age.”