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Spalding is unlikely to ever see another NHS dentist surgery, according to a spokesman for the profession.

Dentists, particularly in rural areas, are being forced to operate at a loss, with terms and conditions being tightened each year by NHS England, says Derek Watson BDS LDS RCS, a former secretary of the European Union of Dentists and the Dental Practitioners Association.

JDSP Dental (Treeline Dental Care) was due to open its clinic in Winsover Road this month, with the equivalent of seven full-time staff.

Dr Jimmey Palahey, a director with JDSP Dental, said when the news was confirmed: "We are very excited to be given the opportunity to provide high quality NHS dental care in Spalding and look forward to serving the local community."

Unfortunately, both JDSP and Community Dental Services CIC, who were planning to set up a surgery at Johnson Community Hospital, have had to pull out because they cannot recruit enough dentists.

Derek Watson
Derek Watson

Mr Watson said: "The idea that the NHS is a service which is available to everybody is on the basis that people pay National Insurance. Rightly, they say they should be able to go to a NHS dentist. But it is likely to become a very limited service for people who have no other choice, with no means or no income.

"The Department of Health will argue that in a system with limited resources, those are the people they should target. But the deal is that we charge National Insurance and you should have treatment. It's taxation with no benefits but in the meantime, you are told if you can afford it, you should go private.

"Spalding is symptomatic of the breakdown within the system which will come to the whole country, but it seems to have come early."

The recruitment and retention of dentists in the NHS has become increasingly difficult since NHS changed the payment method from piecemeal (paying individually for each treatment undertaken) to Units of Dental Activity - dental work is put into one of three price bands and the patient pays for the course of treatment.

But, said Mr Watson, the price band system is based only the patients receiving a single treatment. So if a patient requires 10 fillings, the NHS dentist would receive the payment as if they had carried out only a single filling...effectively providing the other nine fillings for free.

"It's all about economies of scale - so dentists are having to spend less time with patients and buying cheaper materials.

In 1981, every dentist did NHS work. There are twice the number of dentists registered today as there were in 2006," said Mr Watson, "but there is a huge problem with the lack of NHS dentists. What does that tell you?"


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