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Dental Services

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what evidence his Department has assessed in considering whether NHS dentists are (a) dividing up courses of treatment unnecessarily and (b) calling healthy patients back for check-ups unnecessarily. (228272)

The Dental Services Division of the NHS Business Services Authority (DSD) sends out regular management information on contract activity to the national health service. This year the information includes recall intervals.

Historically dentists have tended to recall patients every six months. However guidance issued in 2004 by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence stated that dentists should have more flexible recall intervals, based on each patient’s clinical needs, and that orally healthy adults might not need a check-up more than once every two years. Recalling healthy patients at shorter intervals than is clinically needed does not benefit these patients, and potentially blocks access to the NHS for others.

The source of the information is the activity returns, known as FP17s, which dental providers send to the DSD for every course of treatment delivered. These returns show significant variations among dental providers in the proportion of patients recalled at short intervals. The information will allow primary care trusts, who commission local dental services, to work with dentists to identify the causes of the variations and agree appropriate action to support best clinical practice.