Dental patients lose out as cash is cut - warning
THOUSANDS of residents will have to go without NHS dental treatment after hundreds of thousands of pounds were slashed from one surgery's budget. Weston dentist David Houston says his 'worst fears have been realised' after more than £550,000 was carved of
THOUSANDS of residents will have to go without NHS dental treatment after hundreds of thousands of pounds were slashed from one surgery's budget.Weston dentist David Houston says his 'worst fears have been realised' after more than £550,000 was carved off his practice's budget over the next three years. Patients at Houston's Dentist Surgery in Milton Road, Weston, will now be forced to pay privately for treatment that had previously been available on the NHS.The 25,000-patient practice has chosen to provide a reduced service for its patients rather than take 6,500 of them off its list altogether.A new Government funding system starting in April gives dentists only a set amount of money to carry out its work. This is based on a survey of work carried out by dentists from October 2004-September 2005. Mr Houston says the system does not take into account that his business has grown since then. He was forced to sign the new contract at the end of February but has done so 'in dispute' so he can appeal to the Department of Health against the decision.He said: "Our worst fears have been realised and inevitably it is the patients who are going to suffer."North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) is giving me honest answers and told us there is no more money. But there is no way we are going to abandon 6,500 patients and spreading less money more thinly is the best solution we can come up with in very difficult circumstances."A PCT spokesman said: "As we have said, all dentists were aware of the financial risk they took if they made staffing changes after September 2005."The PCT is unable to increase their allocations unless any NHS practice in North Somerset decides to go completely private." Weston MP John Penrose wants Government minister Rosie Winterton to give Houston's 'an answer to the problem of under-resourcing'.He said: "The Government can't continue just to pass the buck onto the PCT which has made it plain it simply has not been given the funding."A Department of Health spokesman said: "PCTs have been provided with budgets that reflect the work undertaken by dentists during the reference period and a sum to cover any work not taken account of during this period. "It is the responsibility of PCTs to negotiate contracts locally with dentists.