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Under the new contract, a highly committed NHS dentist can expect to earn, on average, around £80,000 per year, with additional money for practice expenses. That will be guaranteed for three years, along with a 5 per cent. reduction in work load.
Eighty thousand plus! Given that figure, is it right for dentists in Birmingham to claim that they are being ripped off by the Government? In some cases, like doorstep cowboys, they have been attempting to blackmail elderly people into purchasing private insurance that they do not need and cannot afford. Surely that is no way for professional people to conduct what is essentially a trade dispute.
My hon. Friend is right to point out that we are offering £80,000, plus practice expenses, guaranteed for three years, and a 5 per cent. reduction in work load—which seems to me to be a fair offer to dentists—as well as introducing a system that will greatly benefit patients. He is quite right, too, to say that many primary care trusts have been worried by some of the information disseminated to patients, which quite frankly has been unnecessarily alarmist. Patients should not feel that they must be driven into private insurance. If a dentist decides not to come with us but to leave the NHS, the money will be available locally to recommission dentistry from other dentists.
I am not sure whether I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Is he saying that patients have to use a different number to make an appointment? That is not current practice. Most people contact their dentist by ringing an ordinary number.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is totally unacceptable for dentists who have rejected the contract and who have moved into the private sector to tell elderly patients with false teeth that they must sign up to Denplan, which costs £200 a year? They do not need their teeth cleaned or examined; all they need is access to a dentist when their false teeth need repairing or upgrading.
My hon. Friend is right to say that that practice is unacceptable. We are making changes to the registration of denturists, who can undertake some of the work that he has mentioned; with appropriate training, they can undertake some of those tasks separately, too.
Given that the Government are making an offer that dentists apparently cannot refuse, and that the deadline passed at the end of last month, will the Minister tell us whether more NHS dentists will be providing services after
All the indications suggest that the vast majority of dentists will sign up to the new contract. As I have said, if dentists do not want to sign up, local primary care trusts now have the money to recommission dentistry.
Some NHS dentists say that they will expand their lists if other local dentists do not want to sign up. Over and above that, international recruitment has taken place, and 1,000 recruits are going through the international qualifying examination. In addition, there are corporate bodies that want to undertake NHS dentistry. An extra £315 million is going into NHS dentistry compared with two years ago, so we can increase capacity and access for patients. The deal is good for dentists, but, importantly, it is good for patients, too.