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First step on long walk back for NHS dentistry, say dental leaders

LONDON, England – The Government has taken a positive first step on the long walk back to NHS dentistry. Thats the verdict of the British Dental Association (BDA) to the Governments announcement this morning of measures designed to rebuild NHS dentistry. The BDA has been urging the Government to take the problems facing NHS dentistry seriously, for the sake of dentists and patients. Leading dentists have long argued that politicians have not recognised the value placed on NHS dental services by patients, something borne out by queues outside dental practices up and down the country.

In April this year, the BDA surveyed all dentists in England and found that the majority considered the Governments initial proposals insufficient to safeguard NHS dentistry.

Speaking following the Governments announcement, Dr John Renshaw, chair of the BDAs Executive Board, said:

"At long last the Government has begun to take notice of the queues and the distress of the tens of thousands of people without access to an NHS dentist. Its not that dentists have been walking away from the NHS, more that the NHS has been walking away from dentistry. Todays announcement marks a positive first step on the long walk back."

Dentists and patients have been united in their call for better investment in NHS dentistry. The BDA will be keen to ensure that the funding announced today goes to the frontline of patient care, rather than getting caught up in administration.

The BDA supports Dr Reids announcement of a further 170 under-graduate places for dental students. This is the 25 per cent increase the Association has long called for. However, the BDA has renewed its call that such an increase is matched by support for those working in dental schools.

Dr Renshaw added:

"Dentists have been calling for changes to NHS dentistry for years. The current system has long been failing dentists and patients alike. We recognise the Government is now serious about beginning the process of reform but patients and dentists will want to see action as well as words."

The British Dental Association is the trade union and professional association for dentists practicing in the UK, representing 20,000 members working in all aspects of dentistry.

The Governments announcement affects NHS dentistry in England only. Despite the Health & Social Care (Community Standards) Act 2003 also covering Wales, implementation is the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales, rather than Parliament.

The Governments announcement today includes 250m extra per year for dentistry from 2005.

The Government has also said that it will recruit more dentists from overseas and encourage others to return to dentistry.

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a BDA spokesperson, please contact the BDAs media team on 020 7563 4146.

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