Improvement made over two-year period
An extra 1.1 million people have access to an NHS dentist now compared to May 2010, according to figures released today by the NHS Information Centre.
The Government said the improvement in access is down to the £28m funding boost made earlier this year through Strategic Health Authorities to expand local dental services, and a commitment it made two years ago to increase the number of people able to see a dentist on the NHS.
Secretary of State Andrew Lansley said: “I am delighted that an extra one million people are now seeing dentists through the NHS. This just shows that NHS dentistry is becoming more accessible.
“We want to make sure that this progress continues and that dentists give the highest standards of care as well as treating more patients. That is why we are testing new ways of working across the country. We will use the findings from these trials to help develop a new dental contract which will help to improve the quality of dental treatment patients receive.”
Dental contract pilots are currently running in 70 practices across the country to test proposals such as paying dentists for the results they achieve rather than just the treatment they provide.
Under the current dental contract, introduced in 2006, dentists earn Units of Dental Activity (UDAs) for every course of treatment they provide and must complete a set number of units to fulfil their service contract.
But a report published earlier this month by NHS Protect revealed dental fraud cost the NHS over £70m in a year alone, with dentists splitting up single courses of treatment into separate claims in order to earn more UDAs blamed as a major cause of fraud.
Also today, research published by an oral health charity revealed that just 43% of UK workers are allowed to take paid time off work to visit the dentist.
The survey, undertaken by the British Dental Health Foundation, also found that only 7% of respondents received occupational health information from their employers on the importance of maintaining good oral health.
The charity estimates that two million people have taken sick time off work due to poor oral health over the past five years.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "Our findings highlight the problems that many people face to find time to visit their dentist on a regular basis and the low level of importance that many employers give to encouraging their workforce to maintain good oral health.
"Significant numbers of people are forced to miss work each year unnecessarily due to avoidable poor oral health. What many employers won't realise is that poor oral health is increasingly being linked to other more serious medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes and heart problems, which cause even greater difficulties for absenteeism.”