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Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2007

12. What assessment she has made of access to NHS dentistry services in (a) 2005-06 and (b) the 2007-08 financial year. (133185)

In April 2006, primary care trusts had commissioned 75 million annual units of dental activity; by January 2007 that had risen to 78.4 million.

The chief dental officer leaked to the press on Friday that instruments used to perform root canal treatments will now have to be disposable. The excellent NHS dentist on North End road is concerned about access, pointing out that those regulations could cost £35 per root canal treatment, which is half the total that a PCT typically spends on a whole course of treatment. Given those new regulations and the fact that no extra funding is being provided, is not the Minister’s purpose to create an NHS dentistry system that is solely about tooth extraction?

First, I challenge the hon. Gentleman’s assertion that this information was leaked; it was sent to all dentists, and there was a ministerial statement about it. Moreover, and as he knows, this was a safety issue relating to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Dentists with a good NHS commitment are given some £80,000 towards their business expenses and are expected within that to offer proper equipment and treatment and proper staff to carry that treatment out. So such expenses are perfectly well covered by the existing amount given to dentists to help run their businesses.