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23m have not seen a dentist for two years

Almost half of Britons have not seen an NHS dentist in the past two years, it has been claimed.

More than 23.1 million people received no dental care on the NHS in the two years to last September, according to statistics obtained by the Tories.

This represents an increase of 4 per cent, or 840,342 people, since the labour Government introduced the controversial contract for dentists in 2006.

The figures also showed that as the number of people routinely seeing a dentist has decreased, the number of hospital admissions for dental treatment has risen.

Last year almost 240,000 were admitted to wards, an increase of six per cent, figures released by the NHS Information Centre showed.

The labour Government hoped the new contracts would give more patients the chance to register with an NHS dentist and encourage preventive care.

Instead of being paid per treatment, dentists were given a flat annual salary and were encouraged to undertake more preventive treatment.

But there is growing concern that the reforms have led to a worse service as many dentists have since rejected NHS patients and are providing less complex treatment amid fears that their income will be affected.

Some specialists have left the NHS to go private because they are not paid well enough for the amount of work done.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: “We know that there are people out there who are pulling out their own teeth because they can’t find an NHS dentist.

“These shocking figure are proof that Labour can’t negotiate a contract with NHS professionals. Some patients have no option but to take their problems to hospital A&E;, a service which is already under great pressure.”

Michael Summers of the Patients Association said: “This really is a scandal. People tell us it is almost impossible to find an NHS dentist in many parts of the country.

“They either have to pay for private treatment or go without check-ups and treatment for years on end. There are real dangers in that, because one of the objects of regular check-ups is to identify infections or signs of oral cancers.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/17/ndentist117.xml

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