Average NHS dentist earns six-figure salary
Last night, patients groups blamed the labour Government for “botching” a contract that allows dentists to make more money from the NHS by carrying out simple work at the expense of complex cases.
Dr Anthony Halperin, a dentist and chairman of the Patients Association, said that he was deeply concerned that treatment was becoming worse under a target-based contract that encouraged dentists to “maximise profits” instead of putting patients first.
“There is evidence that a lot of the most complex work is not being carried out,” he said. “It is easier and more profitable to take out a tooth and replace it with a denture than to carry out complex root canal surgery.
“Dentists are working the system for them, not for the patients.”
Salaries for an average NHS dentist, who spends about 70 per cent of each week doing NHS work, topped six figures in 2006-2007, figures will show.
During the same period, total working hours increased by only half an hour a week, to 37 hours.
Of that, the amount of time devoted to the NHS rose by six minutes a week, to just over 26 hours.
The contract, introduced by labour ministers two years ago, has been attacked by MPs and patient groups as well as some dentists.
Critics say that the “target-based” system has encouraged dentists to concentrate on the work that can be done most quickly and lucratively. The number of people seen by NHS dental practices has dropped by more than a million since the contract was introduced.
Roger Goss, of the pressure group Patient Concern, said: “Dentists are getting more money while patients are getting a worse service.
“This government botched the contract for dentists, in just the same way that they did for GPs and consultants before them.
“All these patients who cannot get their teeth treated on the NHS will find it pretty galling that the average dentist is earning six figures.”
In July, the Commons select committee on health said that the Department of Health had failed in its promise to improve access to dentists.
MPs found evidence that the number of complex treatments such as crowns, bridges and dentures had fallen by 57 per cent since the contract was introduced.
The number of root canal treatments fell by 45 per cent in England and Wales, although it rose in Scotland, where the contract was not brought in.
The committee’s report said that it was “extraordinary” that the department did not test the payment system before introducing it everywhere.