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Dental Fitness

Volume 129: debated on Thursday 10 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what is the current method and process of consultation in relation to the determination of a definition of dental fitness for general dental services;(2) if he is considering any changes to the current definition of dental fitness in relation to general dental services; and whether he will make a statement;(3) how the definition of dental fitness has changed since 1968;(4) if he has any plans to introduce a scheme for a dental fitness index; and if he will make a statement.

"Dental fitness" is defined in the NHS (General Dental Services) Regulations 1973 as

"such a reasonable standard of dental efficiency and oral health as is necessary to safeguard general health".
The regulations form part of the terms of service under which a dentist provides general dental services under NHS arrangements and it is usual, therefore, for any amendments to be made after consultation with interested bodies including those representative of the dental profession. Although the definition has remained unchanged since 1948 its interpretation has evolved over the years to take account of changes in professional skill and knowledge and patient expectations. There are no immediate plans to change the definition nor to introduce a scheme for a dental fitness index. As announced in the recent White Paper on primary care, however, negotiations are to take place on a new contract for general dental practitioners and these might result in revised contractual obligations.