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Posts tagged “PCTs”

UK Government Reverses Decision on Dental Health Screenings

Despite giving assurances, the British government has decided not to continue with dental screening checkups in primary schools. A spokesperson for the Department of Health told reporters that the screening was ‘ineffective.’

New guidelines were drawn up in 2007 removing any obligation on PCTs to provide a dental screening service in schools. The Conservative Party prior to the last election condemned the move stating they would re-introduce the system. They promised that every 5 year old would get access to dental checkups in school.

In fact, the party went further – pledging that all children would be warned about the dangers of eating and drinking too many sugary foodstuffs and would be taught to brush their teeth properly.

However, the health minister, Simon Burns confirmed the u-turn during a health committee meeting. He told MPs: “We are committed to improving the oral health of school children but have decided against the reintroduction of school screening checks.”

Mr. Burns added: “In 2006, the National Screening Committee (NSC) advised that the routine dental screening of children in primary schools was ineffective in improving children’s oral health. The NSC found that children who were identified as requiring treatment were not accessing a general dental practice where it could be provided.”

The Labour opposition condemned the u-turn. The Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham said: “This is the latest in a long line of NHS broken promises from the prime minister. David Cameron made the pledge in opposition to show the Tories had changed, but his failure to keep his word yet again goes to the heart of his personal credibility.”

However, the Health Secretary received support from an unlikely source – the British Dental Association. Dr Peter Bateman, the chairman of the BDA’s Salaried Dentists Committee told reporters: “We are pleased to see the Department of Health restate its commitment not to introduce school-based dental screening. Dentists know that such screening does not help to reduce oral health inequalities, and early in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill the BDA campaigned for this ineffective measure to be set aside.”

He added: “Far more effective are targeted schemes such as Manchester Smiles and Childsmile that seek to engage the child population with intervention and education. It is these approaches that government and commissioners must focus on developing further.”

This view, however, contrasts sharply with Andrew Lansley’s own opinion, when he was shadowing the then Labour government. He is reported to have said that combating children’s dental health was extremely important. As such 680,000 children would have benefitted from the £17 million primary scheme.

UK Graduate Dentistry at an All Time High

The number of students graduating or coming to the end of their vocational or foundation year studies at University is the largest it’s ever been, according to recent figures released. This apparently totals 2,300.

Out of the current crop of graduates many have come from a new system – community dentistry – for want of a better name. A number of local PCTs have been working to create new educational establishments, which bring student dentists closer to the population they aim to serve. Two of these new PCT University collaborations are at Lancashire University (UCLAN), based in Preston and Peninsular, based in the south of England.

In Scotland, Aberdeen will also graduate its first new crop of dentists.

Without doubt, and despite the ill-fated 2006 contract negotiated with the then Labour Government, dentistry has had a boost with overall student numbers rocketing.

However, while all this sounds rosy, dentistry is embroiled in further controversy with the new Government’s announcements over changes to the NHS. So, newly graduated students and those about to graduate over the next couple of years may find the NHS is not what it used to be.

That said, currently the number of patients accessing NHS dentists has been growing rapidly over the last few years, which is to be welcomed, but cuts to NHS budgets will soon affect this. So this is also another source of worry for the profession.

What’s more, with cuts to University funding, not to mention tripling of fees for students, the dental profession now fear that the sudden increase in numbers over the last few years may turn into a sudden fall.

If this happens, pressure on the NHS could be catastrophic.

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