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Dental Estimates Board

Volume 171: debated on Tuesday 1 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance he gives to the Dental Estimates Board regarding the choice between suggesting short-term financially cheaper treatment or long-term slightly more expensive treatment;(2) what guidance he gives to the Dental Estimates Board regarding due notice that it should take of the treatment plan submitted by the patient's dentist;(3) what representations he has received about the distress and discomfort caused to many patients by the length of time taken by the Dental Estimates Board to give decisions on dental treatment plans;

(4) what is the average time taken by the Dental Estimates Board to give a decision on a dental treatment plan; and if he will make a statement;

(5) how many complaints he received in each of the years (a) 1983, (b) 1984, (c) 1985, (d)1986, (e)1987, (f)1988 and (g)1989 regarding the length of time taken by the Dental Estimates Board to give decisions on treatment plans;

(6) how often procedures are reviewed by the Dental Estimates Board with regard to the length of time taken to reach decisions on dental treatment plans;

(7) how often the Dental Estimates Board reviews its procedures for the filing and retrieval of dental treatment plans.

The Dental Practice Board (its name was changed from Dental Estimates Board with effect from 1 April 1989) is a statutory body, independent of the Department of Health. The board is required to consider all dental estimate forms submitted to it for approval of treatment or for approval of payment and may give or withhold approval as it thinks fit. Guidance of the type referred to by my hon. Friend is, therefore, not appropriate.The board keeps all of its internal operating procedures under routine review. For the last complete quarter to 31 March 1990 it responded to requests for approval of treatment in an average time of 14 calendar days. For the same quarter, in 98 per cent. of cases dentists were notified of the decision about payment by the first payment schedule following the request. The average time to notify dentists of a decision about payment was 26 calendar days, which reflects the fact that schedules are issued once each month.Information concerning representations and complaints about the time taken by the board to give decisions on treatment plans is not readily available. In particular, yearly statistics are not kept. Complaints are, however, very few in number and I am not aware of any specific representations concerning distress or discomfort to patients.