Dental Services (Estimates Committee's Reports)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 1963.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 12th July 1963

My hon. Friend will realise in a moment why I am pointing out what happens when an English dentist goes on a refresher course. I was saying that if a dentist practising in England takes a refresher course, he gets his fare paid, with subsistance allowance and a locum is supplied if the need demands it. I suppose that a locum would not be regarded as necessary if he were in a joint practice. However, in Scotland that system does not operate.

This is one of the dental disparities to which I referred in dealing with the amalgamation of the services in Britain. I hope that the Secretary of State will pay attention to this matter, for if the number of refresher courses in Scotland is increased, and more dentists take these courses, which everyone admits to be necessary, there should be no disparity between the treatment given to a dentist practising in Scotland and to one doing so in England.

That covers most of the recommendations about which I want to say a few words. There were one or two other matters which I might have ventured to mention, but I know that many hon. Members still want to take part in the debate. In the course of examining witnesses before the Committee, I raised one or two points of importance to people other than dentists, to those who sometimes, have to work in association with the dental service. I refer to what may happen after a tooth has been extracted and when post-extraction haemorrhage sets in.

Instead of the dentist treating it on his own, a doctor is often called in to do so. This sometimes creates unnecessary friction between the doctor and the dentist, because the doctor may be called out at difficult hours to deal with the aftermath of a dental extraction. This situation arises because, although the hours of availability of the dentist are posted up in post offices so that the public may know at what hours dental treatment can be obtained, the dentist himself is not bound to be in his surgery during those hours.

This is a profession in which consultation is still by appointment. Consequently, if there is any unexpected sequel to an extraction,"by appointment" still operates even when it is impossible to assign a time for attention which is urgently required. When the two Ministers are taking what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) described as a hard look at the whole of this great organisation, I hope that they will look at the system by which hours of availability are made public, but which do not bind the dentist necessarily to be available at his surgery during those hours.

While we may say critical things about the service, and those employed in it, and the lack of planned Government expansion, especially in those parts of Scotland which I have mentioned, every one of us, either as a member of the Committee, as a member of the Government, or as a person practising in the dental profession, is animated by one desire—to strengthen the service and to widen its outlook in order that it may operate for the benefit of all the people of Britain irrespective of their location.