Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Getting decent pay for dentist on NHS is like pulling teeth

News Scotsman reports continuing problems with the National Health Service:

Practitioners claim they are being forced to go private because of low payments from Executive for their work

MEAGRE payments for NHS work are forcing dentists into the private sector to avoid going out of business.

They say charges of as little as £7 per treatment make covering costs for equipment, materials and staff - let alone making a profit - increasingly difficult.

Many dentists believe the Scottish Executive’s plans to bring in free dental check-ups for all patients by 2007 are practically impossible.

Dentists across Scotland are leaving the NHS in their droves to work in the private sector, making it ever more difficult for patients to access health service treatment.

They have faced allegations of greed for doing so, but those in the profession say the paltry payments the Executive gives for carrying out NHS work mean they have little choice.

Dentist are not paid salaries, but instead are paid piecework for the treatments they carry out. They are paid just £7.05 by the Executive for a check-up, which usually takes ten or 15 minutes per patient.

This means they have to see dozens of patients a day if they are to cover their costs, affecting the quality of the work they carry out and the amount of time they are able to spend with patients.

The average NHS dentist sees 40 patients a day, allowing them just five minutes with each person.

In return for such a demanding schedule, the rewards are still good, with the average NHS dentist in Edinburgh earning between £40,000 and £50,000 a year.

John Davidson, chairman of the Lothian Independent Dental Practitioners, left the NHS eight years ago.

He argues that dentists moving to the private sector are not motivated by greed, but because the money paid by the health service is so low that they are discouraged from providing a proper service.

Mr Davidson said: "It’s as if you are producing widgets. The more widgets you produce, the more money you make. It’s not a good way of working to look after someone’s teeth. It forces you to work faster and faster and there’s no incentive for quality. A dentist can produce very bad work and get paid the same as a dentist who produces quality work.

"That’s the main reason why most dentists leave the NHS - so they can see fewer patients and provide a better quality of care."

Read the rest of the article here.

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