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Camden New Journal - By CHARLOTTE CHAMBERS
Published: 3 April 2008
The whole tooth: 10,000 fewer patients visit NHS dentists

NEARLY 10,000 fewer people have been seen by an NHS dentist in Camden since a controversial dental contract was introduced two years ago this week.

The reforms were supposed to improve access to dental care for NHS patients, but Whitehall chiefs have become so concerned by the alleged failings of the target-led contract that they are currently in the middle of a parliamentary inquiry into it.
The traditional view of trips to the dentist was they were best avoided at all costs: now it seems patients don’t have a choice.
Critics say people are either unable to afford treatment or their dentist has decided to “go private”, and cleared their list of NHS patients.
Figures unearthed by the New Journal show how around 98,000 patients saw an NHS dentist in Camden during the past two years.
The figure compares with 108,000 in the two years before the old contract was scrapped.
Five years ago, 136 dentists offered NHS treatments in the borough. Today, that number has dropped to 105.
Liberal Democrat councillor David Abrahams, chairman of Camden’s health scrutiny panel, said he was “worried” by the figures.
He said: “It’s the drop in the number of patients accessing NHS dental care that worries me. The concern is people are confused about how to access NHS dentistry and the different charges paid privately and on the NHS. That’s what the PCT [primary care trust] needs to address.”
Neil Woodnick, of Camden Primary Care Trust’s Patient Forum, said: “The cost is not that much different from private dentists so it wouldn’t surprise me if people moved over to private. But some people might not go to the dentist because they can’t afford it.”
Susie Sanderson, of the British Dental Association, said it was “a bleak second birthday for the new dental contract”.
She said: “Criticism from the profession and patients continues to gain momentum.”
A PCT spokeswoman denied people were missing out on treatment in Camden.
“There are no problems with access and no waiting lists in Camden for NHS dental care,” she said.

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