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Dental Services

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the impact the new dental contract has had on (a) care of patients and (b) working conditions of dentists; and if she will make a statement. (142326)

The Department will shortly be publishing a report, assessing the first 12 months of the new arrangements for local commissioning of dental services and the new contractual arrangements. The new arrangements are designed to support dentists in carrying out less complex and invasive courses of treatment that allow more time for preventative care. This should help promote clinically appropriate care for patients while reducing workload for dentists. It will take time to build up detailed evidence on the impact on patient care and on dental workload and expenses. However, the available evidence suggests that the new arrangements are, as intended, supporting dentists in carrying out less complex courses of treatment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the impact of the new dental contract on access to NHS dentistry; and if she will make a statement. (142327)

The Department will be publishing a report later in the summer, assessing the first 12 months of the new arrangements for local commissioning of dental services and the new contractual arrangements. The most recent data show that the proportion of the population accessing national health service dental services in the two-year period ending December 2006 is the same as in the two-year period immediately preceding the reforms. This suggests that access has remained broadly stable during the transition to the new arrangements. The evidence also so far indicates that the NHS is commissioning a steadily increasing volume of NHS dental services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether her Department has a target for the number of NHS dentists per head of population in (a) each primary care trust area and (b) England. (142901)

The Department has not set targets for numbers of national health service dentists. Under the dental reforms implemented from April 2006, it is for primary care trusts to assess local oral health needs and develop dental services to reflect these needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of (a) adults and (b) children are registered for NHS dentistry in (i) the City of Sunderland, (ii) the North East region and (iii) England. (143345)

Under the new national health service dental contractual arrangements, patients do not have to be registered with a dentist to receive NHS care. Information is available on the number of patients receiving NHS dental care or treatment at least once over a 24-month period (patients seen). This is not comparable to registration data for the period before April 2006.

Section F2 of Annex 3 of the NHS Dental Statistics for England Q4: 31 March 2007 report contains information on the number of adult and child patients seen in the 24-month periods ending 31 March, 30 June, 30 September, 31 December 2006 and 31 March 2007 in England, NHS North East and Sunderland teaching primary care trust, expressed as a proportion of the estimated population for each area. This report is available in the Library.

The report, published by The Information Centre for health and social care, is also available online at:

www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/primary-care/dentistry/nhs-dental-statistics-for-england:-quarter-4:-31-march-2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health in which primary care trusts patients seeking an NHS dentist are (a) able to make their own arrangements to choose which NHS dentist they see, (b) allocated a dentist from a central list after a wait of no more than three months and (c) allocated a dentist from a central list after a wait in excess of three months. (143929)

This information is not held centrally. Primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for providing or commissioning primary dental care services to reflect local needs. It is for PCTs to agree locally with the providers of these services the most effective arrangements to support patients in accessing services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which primary care trusts have undertaken patient surveys in order to assess patient demand for NHS dentistry in their area. (143930)

This information is not held centrally. Primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for providing or commissioning primary dental care services to reflect local needs. It is for PCTs to decide locally, in consultation with local clinicians and patients, how most effectively to assess these needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what basis comparisons can be made between the number of NHS patients registered at a dental practice and units of dental activity to assess levels of dental provision before and after the introduction of the new general dental services contract. (144844)

The Information Centre for health and social care regularly publishes information on the number of individual patients seen by national health service dentists in England over a 24 month period. The latest data show the position for the 24 months ending 31 March 2007 and is contained in “NHS Dental Statistics for England: Quarter 4: 31 March 2007”, which is available in the Library.

To support comparisons of access before and after the dental reforms introduced in April 2006, the Information Centre reports include information on numbers of individual patients seen in the last 24 months of the previous contractual arrangements, i.e. the period ending 31 March 2006. These data show that the number of patients seen has remained broadly stable throughout the first transitional year of the reforms.

Units of dental activity are a way of measuring the courses of dental treatment provided for NHS patients, based on grouping courses of treatment into three main bands and applying different weightings to reflect the relative complexity of these bands. The corresponding number of patients seen will vary depending on the complexity of the treatment they require and the frequency with which they re-attend for new courses of treatment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which indicators her Department intends to use to compare NHS dental provision before and after the introduction of the new general dental services contracts. (142613)

Data are available at national level on the numbers of patients receiving national health service dental services within the most recent two-year period and on the number of courses of treatment provided annually for NHS patients (by treatment band). The Department is supporting primary care trusts in developing a wider range of indicators that can be used locally to measure and benchmark the development of primary dental services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the number of individual NHS patients registered and treated under general dental services contracts is recorded. (142614)

Patients no longer have to be formally registered with a practice to receive national health service dental services. The information centre for heath and social care published quarterly data on the numbers of individual patients receiving NHS dental care at least once within the most recent two-year period. Numbers of patients seen in the previous 24 months ending 31 March, 30 June, 30 September and 31 December 2006 are available in Section Fl of Annex 3 of the NHS Dental Statistics for England Q3: 31 December 2006 report. This report is available in the Library and also at:

www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/primary-care/dentistry/nhs-dental-statistics-for-england-q3:-31-december-2006.