Skip to main content


Volume 447: debated on Thursday 22 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of dental practices in Norwich, North have decided to opt out of the NHS in the last 12 months; and how many dentists this figure represents. (65529)

As at 31 March 2006, there were 12 dental practices and 58 dentists within the Norwich, North parliamentary constituency working in the national health service general dental services (GDS) or personal dental services (PDS).

During the period 31 March 2005 to 31 March 2006, no dental practices left the GDS or PDS. During the same period, three dentists left the GDS or PDS, while 11 dentists joined the GDS or PDS, providing a net increase of eight dentists within the Norwich, North parliamentary constituency.

Norfolk’s primary care trusts (PCTs) are reinvesting with local dental practices to enable them to treat more patients. They have also made other improvements to dental services with approximately 20 extra dentists being recruited to the county, in the last two years, using the Department’s international recruitment scheme.

Information on the number of dentists who have signed the new contract by 1 April 2006 is not available centrally. We do however have some provisional information that covers contracts. A contract may be for more than one dentist so cannot be broken down further to individual dentist level. The following tables show the number of new dental services contracts that were signed and rejected at strategic health authority (SHA) level and by PCTs in the Norwich, North constituency area and the percentage of dental services these rejections represent.


Contracts signed

Contracts rejected

Units of dental activity (UDA) percentage (contracts rejected)

Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire





Contracts signed

Contracts rejected

UDA percentage (contracts rejected)









Southern Norfolk




Notes: 1. Data have been provided by the Information Centre for health and social care and the data source is the Business Services Authority. 2. A dentist with a GDS or PDS contract may provide as little or as much NHS treatment as he or she chooses or has agreed with their PCT. Information concerning the amount of time dedicated to NHS work by individual GDS or PDS dentists is not centrally available. 3. Dentists consist of principals, assistants and trainees. Prison contracts have been excluded. 4. The postcode of the dental practice was used to allocate dentists to specific geographic areas. Constituency areas have been defined using the Office for National Statistics all fields postcode directory. 5. The data for dentists who have left the NHS include those who have retired.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to monitor the impact of the new dental contract on access to dental care. (73300)

Under the new arrangements, the NHS Business Services Authority will monitor the numbers of patients who receive care or treatment from national health service primary care dentists on one or more occasions within a given period of time, as had previously been the system for most personal dental services pilots.

I have asked the implementation review group, which has been set up to review the impact of the NHS dental reforms and identify any issues that need to be addressed, for views on what time period should be used as the main basis for this monitoring.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she has received representations from patients who have been removed from a general dental practitioner’s list because of a failure to attend an appointment; what estimate she has made of the number of patients who have been removed from a general dental practitioner’s list because of a failure to attend an appointment since the introduction of the new general dental services contract and personal dental services agreement; and whether the threat of removing a patient from a dentist’s list if they fail to attend an appointment is a method (a) sanctioned, (b) approved and (c) recommended by her Department for the reduction of the number of failures to attend appointments. (76969)

We are not aware of any representations from patients whose dentist has declined to provide further treatment because of failure to attend agreed appointments. No estimate has been made of the number of patients whose dentist has terminated treatment on these grounds.

Paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 to both the national health service (general dental services contracts) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No 2005/3361) and the national health service (personal dental services agreements) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No 2005/3373) provide that where, in the reasonable opinion of the contractor, there has been an irrevocable breakdown in the relationship between the patient and that contractor, and notice of such a breakdown has been given to the patient by the contractor, the contractor may notify the primary care trust (PCT) that it will no longer provide services to that patient under the contract.

Persistent failure by a patient to keep appointments without good cause constitutes an irrevocable breakdown in the relationship.

Terminating treatment is not a step that any dentist takes lightly. PCTs are encouraged to work with national health service contractors to help them to manage their appointment systems in ways that minimise missed appointments and therefore the need for this sanction. This is in the interest of patients and dentists.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what safeguards are in place to prevent patients from mistakenly receiving private dental treatment in the belief that it is being provided on the NHS; and what recourse is available to patients who incur charges in this way; (77291)

(2) what consent is required from patients for private dental treatment by NHS dentists.

An Office of Fair Trading Report, ‘The Private Dentistry Market in the United Kingdom’, published in 2003, identified the need for improvements in the regulation of private dentistry. The Department has worked with the General Dental Council (GDC) to implement the report’s recommendations. The GDC has revised its maintaining standards guidance to require dentists to provide the information that patients need to choose whether they wish to be treated under the national health service or privately. The guidance specifies,

“non-compliance with these standards will put a dentist’s registration at risk”.

Through amendments to the Dentists Act 1984, approved by Parliament last July, the GDC has introduced a service for the investigation and resolution of complaints about private dentistry. The service can be accessed through the website or by telephone on 08456 120 540.