Debate over £1m cash for dentists

A QUESTION mark hangs over almost £1million Government funding for dentists after health chiefs refused to confirm the cash would be given to practices. North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) has received £8.6m for 2006/07 from the Department of Health

A QUESTION mark hangs over almost £1million Government funding for dentists after health chiefs refused to confirm the cash would be given to practices. North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) has received £8.6m for 2006/07 from the Department of Health to fund NHS patients at 39 dental practices in the area.But after five dental practices opted out of NHS care over the current financial year, the PCT has been left with £900,000 of spare cash to dish out. The remaining 34 practices with NHS lists have currently been allocated £7.7m.The PCT says it will discuss what to do with this money at a board meeting on April 28. Crucially, it has refused to say if it will definitely hand the money over to the remaining practices, although this will be one option discussed.But the Weston Mercury understands another option for discussion could be for the cash-strapped PCT to divert the spare cash away from dentists into other areas. Health chiefs are in the process of clarifying these rules with the Government.A Department of Health spokesman said: "Money given to PCTs for dental contracts is ring-fenced which means it has to be used to fund dentistry in the area."Under a new Government funding system, dentists are awarded cash based on the number of patients who were registered at their practice from September 2004-October 2005.Practices which have taken on more patients and staff since then say they face a shortfall in funding because the system does not account for this expansion. Some dentists have asked the PCT for more money.A PCT spokesman said: "The new general dental services contract came into effect on April 1 and 34 NHS practices out of 39 operating in North Somerset took up new contracts."In some practices where new dentists have started in post or extra sessions have been taken on since the end of the baseline year, requests for growth funding have been made. At its meeting on March 24, the board agreed to reconsider these bids in April, following further assessment of its financial commitments for 2006/07.


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