Children’s dentist in free treatment alert

A CHILDREN’S dentist has accused the Government of overinflating targets for the treatment of young people under 18.

A CHILDREN’S dentist has accused the Government of overinflating targets for the treatment of young people under 18.

Jane Ainsworth is warning of a decline in the free care of young patients as dentists are unable to hit the targets put in place under the controversial contract in April 2006.

The chair of North Tyne Local Dental Committee says she will not hit her Units of Dental Activity (UDAs) set by the Government for treating her young patients and faces having thousands of pounds of funding clawed back as a result.

The Shiremoor Dental Practice dentist has branded the targets unrealistic as she says she will have to do more work for less income as she has been paid under the old contract in previous years.

“It is a disgrace that the Government has cut the funding for children’s dentistry in this way, and that they have done this without it being apparent to the public,” she said. “There will be a generation of children, particularly in deprived areas, who grow up without a sound basis for oral health, thanks to the Government’s deviousness and dissembling.”

Under the previous contract, dentists were paid a monthly figure totalling up to £54 per year dependent on age for every child registered with them.

Under the new contract, dentists’ funding is based on a target of two units of dental activity each year for every child registered with them, which comes to £33 per year, plus UDA for the fillings they had done.

The Government has made an assumption that every child has two check-ups each year which Ms Ainsworth says is nonsense as children attended closer to every eight to nine months.

“What this has meant for most dentists is that their target for children will have been inflated by up to 50%. In other words, they have to do more work for less.”

Ms Ainsworth looks after about 450 children in Shiremoor and as her practice did not hit its targets in the first year of the contract, she says she must pay back close to £8,000 of funding to the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

But she has done more work than in the test year for the contract on which the funding was calculated.

“So I am having to pay back money, even though we have done more work. It means I do not have that money to invest in better services for the patients.”

A spokeswoman for North Tyneside PCT said: “Dentists are independent contractors and can decide if they want to provide adult or children’s NHS services, private services or a mixture of the three.

“This dentist decided to provide NHS services only to children. The contract was changed in April 2006 and has been maintained at the same level this year. There are no plans to change the level of contract unless the dentist decides to change the services.”

Previous system said to work well

UNDER the previous contract, dentists were paid a monthly amount for every child registered with them.

The amount varied according to age, amounting up to £54 per year.

This amount covered check-ups, preventive advice and hygiene visits. If a child needed a filling or extraction, the dentist was paid separately for those.

The system was said to work well as the payments were generous enough to allow dentists to spend time with children who needed it such as nervous youngsters.

But the Dental Practice Board had no record of how many times each child had been for a check-up or been to the hygienist because these were not claimed for in the same way as the fillings and extractions were, according to Ms Ainsworth.

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