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Volume 940: debated on Monday 28 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will reduce the average time period of six weeks taken to pay dentists following the treatment of patients under the National Health Service;(2) what is the average total amount of money outstanding to dentists, payable by the National Health Service at any one time.

Present arrangements do not call for any action on my right hon. Friend's part.Payments to dentists working in the general dental services are authorised by the Dental Estimates Board. Dentists submit claims for monthly payment at weekly or more frequent intervals. The claims are in the hands of the Board for about three weeks on average. However as the Board is handling over 100,000 claims forms every day it is necessary in the interests of efficiency to phase their arrangements for authorising family practitioner committees to pay individual dentists. Family practitioner committees are allocated a date in each month, which does not vary, when the schedules of payments to dentists on their dental lists are despatched by the Board. This is known as the scheduling date. On receipt of schedules it is for family practitioner committees to make the payments to the dentists. Most dentists recognise that they have a particular pay day and arrange the submission of claims accordingly. I have no reason to believe that generally there are undue delays in making payments.It is not possible to estimate the value of claims which are in the post or are pending payment by family practitioner committees. However, an estimate of the value of claims with the Dental Estimates Board at any one time is £12 million. The total expenditure on the general dental services in the past year was £230 million, of which £50 million was payable to the dentists at the time of treatment as the patient's contribution.