All 10 strategic health authorities have set themselves the goal of delivering access to National Health Service dentistry for all who seek it by March 2011 and will be monitoring the progress made by primary care trusts.
A national access team has been set up to support the NHS to deliver the new services and new ways of working this ambitious goal requires. To help the NHS quickly to procure and bring on line new services, the programme has developed a procurement framework, is running a series of bidder workshops in April to June 2009 and has launched a dedicated support website. New services for new patients are starting to come on stream now, though the majority of additional procurements, following the framework, will come online in early 2010.
Access to NHS dentistry is already starting to improve. 100,000 more patients saw an NHS dentist in the 24-month period ending 30 September 2008 than in the 24-month period ending 30 June 2008. And a further 240,000 saw an NHS dentist in the 24-month period ending 31 December 2008. The scale of the challenge remains significant and there is much further to go, but the NHS has made a positive start as these figures show.
The department is not responsible for the provision of National Health Service dental services outside of England, as this lies with the devolved Administrations.
In England there were 20,815 dentists who had NHS activity recorded through FP17 claim forms during the year ending 31 March 2008, an increase of 655 on the previous year. This figure is reported in Table 32 of the NHS Dental Statistics for England: 2007/08 report. This report has already been placed in the Library and is also available on the NHS Information Centre website at www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/denta10708.
This figure refers to the number of high street dentists. It is a headcount and does not differentiate between full-time and part-time dentists, nor does it account for the fact that some dentists may do more NHS work than others. It is possible that some of these dentists also did NHS work in other parts of the United Kingdom.