Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Chief Executive, British Dental Association, to the Clerk of the Committee (D7A)


  Thank you for the Inquiry into the Government`s strategy to improving access to NHS Dentistry, which your Committee conducted on 15 February. We felt that the Committee had, in a limited time, carefully and thoughtfully explored some of the issues that the profession, the NHS, and Government, are currently grappling with. Please pass on our thanks to David Hinchcliffe, MP, for the courteous and detailed way in which he chaired the Inquiry.

  We very much hope that the Health Committee will, as the Chairman hinted, take the opportunity to return for a longer look at issues in dentistry and oral health for the NHS. You will have gathered from our evidence, both written and oral, the depth of concern of BDA members about the current situation. As the Chairman of the BDA Executive Board, Dr John Renshaw, noted at the end of his evidence, dentists have not withdrawn from the NHS over the past decade for ideological reasons, but because of the great difficulties they have faced in practising dentistry in the NHS to the standards that they, and their patients, demand and deserve.

  The very long-standing problems of access to GDS, and pressures on the CDS, which the Government has now begun to address, require a great deal of further attention. It is essential that the Government and the profession work together to look at how NHS dental care should be delivered to meet today's and tomorrow's needs—an essential step for a modernised NHS. We were thus very pleased that the Minister, Lord Hunt, gave the Health Select Committee a commitment to work with the profession.

  The Chairman invited the BDA to submit additional comments. In particular, he invited observations on the recommendations of the 1993 Health Select Committee Report. Re-reading this report, it is alarming how much could have been written now. To quote from the 1993 Conclusion & Recommendations.

    "We conclude that the principal apparent constraints on the dental services in the coming years are the limits on the ability of dentists to deliver a greater quantity of treatment, the limit on the government's and the taxpayers', willingness to fund more treatment and the willingness and ability of patients to register with, and attend, a dentist. We believe that a rational approach to planning the delivery of oral health to patients of the NHS will require that the meeting of need and the determination of priorities shape, rather than follow from, the operation of the remuneration system."(4)

  We very much hope that the Minister's encouraging remarks, and our own commitment to work with Government to look at these problems, will now allow us to move beyond the current situation, that was deemed unacceptable as long ago as 1993. We believe that the BDA and the Government share the same aim of creating a modernised NHS dental provision that delivers the highest possible care for all.

  We also hope that the Report of your Inquiry will support us in working to improve the current position. I hope that you feel that you can call on the BDA to help with any issues in preparing your Report. We would, of course, be happy to help in any way we can in the future deliberations of the Committee.

23 February 2001

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