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Last Updated: Aug 19th, 2006 - 22:18:38

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Careers : Dental : United Kingdom

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NHS dentists increased by 1,100 in a year
Nov 11, 2005, 01:02, Reviewed by: Dr.

Whilst this recruitment drive is helping in the short term, it is not the whole solution. To build a better future for NHS dentistry and ensure enduring improvements in access we have also increased the number of training places for dental students by a quarter. This means 170 more students each year will now train to become dentists of the future.

There are more NHS dentists now and will be in the future thanks to a successful recruitment campaign bringing dentists to the NHS to improve access, and an increase in the number of students able to train as dentists, said Health Minister Rosie Winterton today.

Speaking at the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London, as she met new dental students, Rosie Winterton confirmed that the Government has far exceeded its target to recruit the whole time equivalent of 1000 more dentists and has also seen the largest increase in the number of dental training places in nearly 20 years.

In the past year the equivalent of 1,453 more dentists were recruited to the NHS, contributing to a net increase of 1,100 dentists. The target to increase dental training places by 25 per cent, to 170 more places, was also exceeded by 10 per cent, with 189 more students entering training this year to become future dentists.

In July 2004 the Health Secretary set a target to recruit the equivalent of 1000 more whole time dentists to the NHS to alleviate local access problems around the country, and to increase the number of places in dental schools for students training to be dentists by 25 per cent, 170 new places.

In addition, there are now 700,000 more people registered with an NHS dentist, increasing the total number registered from 23.7 to 24.4 million. This partly reflects the longer registration period in PDS schemes, which have been successfully piloted across the country by 30 per cent of NHS dentists.

Rosie Winterton said;

"NHS dentistry is getting better, and we are doing all we can to keep increasing access to NHS dentistry. We know access to an NHS dentist has been a problem for people and that is why we started a year long recruitment campaign last July to bring more dentists to the NHS so more people can see an NHS dentist near where they live. Dentists have been targeted to areas where seeing an NHS dentist has been most difficult, for example the South West Peninsula, North East Yorkshire, East Anglia, Shropshire, and the Isle of Wight. There is still clearly more to do, but I am pleased to see that already many patients are seeing the benefits of new dentists in these areas.

"Whilst this recruitment drive is helping in the short term, it is not the whole solution. To build a better future for NHS dentistry and ensure enduring improvements in access we have also increased the number of training places for dental students by a quarter. This means 170 more students each year will now train to become dentists of the future.

"We are also introducing the new types of contract that dentists asked for, which will make the NHS a more attractive place for them to work."

Acting Chief Dental Officer Barry Cockcroft said;

"As well as recruiting more dentists to the NHS, we are also introducing a major programme of dentistry reforms in April 2006 that will have significant benefits both for patients and dentists. For patients, the reforms will mean that their local Primary Care Trust now has the budget to replace dentists if they leave or reduce their commitment to the NHS. Based on the experience of PDS pilot schemes, we know the reforms - together with the new NICE guidelines on patient recall intervals - will also free up capacity that dentists can use to see more patients and to spend more time with patients, for instance on preventative work.

"For dentists, the new contract will mean an end to the 'treadmill' associated with the current payment system. Dentists will have the security of a guaranteed annual NHS income, so they can plan ahead, and their workload is set to reduce by at least 5 per cent."

Professor Paul Wright, Dean of Dentistry at the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London, said.

"We are proud of the first-class training our students receive at Barts and The London and are glad that with extra funding, we can now train even more students. These extra students we are teaching to be tomorrow's dentists will play an important part in making NHS dentistry available to more people. Together with the other dental schools in England, we have been pleased to be able to work with the Department of Health and the Higher Education Funding Council to deliver the extra training places promised by the Government last year."

- Department of Health, UK


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Rosie Winterton was meeting dental students at the Institute of Dentistry, Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London.

How the recruitment target was achieved:

The recruitment of an equivalent 1453 whole time dentists was achieved through:

* international recruitment from the EU, targeting areas where dental access needed immediate action
* in conjunction with the General Dental Council, expanding the number of sittings of the International Qualifying Exam (IQE) exam for non EU dentists and reducing the typical time taken to pass the exam from two years to one
* attracting dentists to return to the NHS from career breaks with advice and support, and
* local investment by PCTs to increase local dentists' commitment to the NHS.

The composition of the 1,000 whole time equivalent target is:

* Department of Health recruitment from Poland 216
* Other international recruitment 297
* International Qualifying Exam 230
* Domestic recruitment 88
* PCT expansion of local NHS capacity 622
* TOTAL 1453

Figures on PCT local expansion are supplied by PCTs. Other data are collated centrally by the Department of Health.

The total number of NHS dentists has increased by 1,100 in the last year:

Registration overall has increased by 700,000 between October 2004 - October 2005. The number of patients registered with an NHS dentists has increased from 23.7 million in October 2004 to 24.4 million in October 2005.

Latest returns show that, in October this year, 859 home dental students were admitted to dental schools in England, an increase of 189 (28%) over the 670 students admitted in October 2003.

The new contractual arrangements will be beneficial to dentists and their patients:

From April 2006 we are introducing the new contractual arrangements dentists wanted to encourage them to stay in the NHS. This will mean that for the first time PCTs will have local control of budgets for dentistry. This means that if a dentist leaves the NHS, the PCT can buy in replacement NHS dental services so that patients do not lose access to NHS dentistry.

The new contract will also allow dentists to spend more time with their patients and offers dentists the security of a guaranteed NHS income so they can plan ahead.

Benefits for NHS patients

The public will benefit from a set of reforms that allow dentists to spend more time with patients and to focus on promoting good oral health. On top of this:

* under the new expert guidelines on recall intervals (produced by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence), many patients will no longer need the traditional six-monthly check up. This will free up time that dentists can use to see a greater range of patients and improve access to NHS services
* the proposed new system of patient charges will be simpler and fairer. Instead of over 400 separate charges for different items of treatment, there will be a simple system of three bands. The maximum charge for dental treatment will reduce, and patients will be able to understand more clearly what treatment is proposed and what it will cost
* Primary Care Trusts will for the first time have local control of resources for dentistry. This means that they can immediately commission new services to replace capacity where dentists leave the NHS or reduce their NHS commitment
* the new contracts will ban the unacceptable practice of only accepting children as NHS patients if their parent or parents agree to register as private patients.
* Benefits for dentists

The reforms offer an excellent deal for dentists:

* they will have the security of a guaranteed NHS income, enabling them to plan ahead in the certainty of a fixed monthly payment for their NHS work
* we have guaranteed that for the next three years dentists� annual contracts will be worth at least the value of their current NHS earnings, but with a 5% reduction in the courses of treatment they have to carry out.
* we are taking dentists off the �drill and fill� treadmill of the current pay system. Instead of being paid separate fees for each individual item of treatment, they will instead carry out an agreed number of courses of treatment over the course of a year
* all the evidence from piloting is that this will enable dentists to carry out fewer, simpler items of treatment. In the pilot schemes that 30 per cent of dentists are working to, there has also been a typical reduction of over 20 per cent in items of service carried out. This will free up significant capacity within the dental practice that can be used to spend more time with patients, adopt a more preventative approach, and better manage workload.

Dentists will continue to benefit from the NHS in many other ways:

* a dentist with a high level of commitment to the NHS can expect to earn an average of around �80,000
* the gross income that dentists receive from the NHS is much higher than this, to contribute to the costs of running a practice
* dentists benefit from a generous and secure NHS pension scheme
* dentists benefit from Government investment in high-quality dental education and NHS training - regardless of how much NHS work they go on to do.

The reforms are based on listening to the views of the dental profession. Both the British Dental Association and individual dentists told us that they wanted a system that moved them away from the �item of service� treadmill and provided more time with patients and more time for preventative work. This is precisely what the new types of contract will offer.

Over 30 per cent of dentists already benefiting from these new ways of working in Personal Dental Services (PDS) pilots. They will have the opportunity to move to permanent PDS arrangements in April.

Related United Kingdom News

NHS dentists increased by 1,100 in a year
Extra exam sessions of IQE to speed up overseas dental recruits

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