Cornwall is an NHS dentistry desert claims St Ives MP

June 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

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by Yepoka Yeebo

Most adults in Cornwall assume they will never get onto an NHS dentists list because of dangerous underfunding, the MP for St Ives told the Commons on Wednesday.

Andrew George said underfunding led to less staff and weakened services.

“Cornwall has one of the most threadbare NHS dentistry services in the country,” he told the House in the adjournment debate he secured on the subject.

“NHS provision per head of population in Cornwall is about half the national average.

“It is incredibly difficult to arrange to be seen by an NHS dentist.

“It is not just a question of access, although on a long, thin peninsula there are no alternatives in the form of other PCTs or health services.

“We can be pretty sure that for every new NHS dentist whose arrival in one of the towns in my constituency is trumpeted, another will jettison NHS patients or go private within months, if not weeks, because of the pressure that dentists feel that they are under.

“The Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation studied, over several years, every aspect of the NHS formula for the allocation and weighted capitation of funding to every primary care trust in the country.

“Consequently, there is a welcome uplift in the funding for Cornwall and other places.

“However, although Cornwall will receive a 12.4 per cent increase, it will still be 6.2 per cent below target at the end of the current two-year cycle of NHS funding.”

Mr George said this meant Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust would be underfunded by £56.5million for the financial year 2010 to 2011.

Mike O’Brien, minister of state for the Department of Health, said funding had increased significantly.

“To rectify any alleged underfunding would effectively mean reopening all the previous allocation rounds, and we are not in a position to do that,” he said.

“We must recognise that we are where we are and have to have a fair and reasonable funding formula for the areas to which it applies.

“Furthermore, we must not in any way undermine the stability of NHS funding and long-term planning, either in areas such as his, which benefit from the new criteria, or in areas that do not receive the increase that, up to now, they had expected.

“Investment will continue in Cornwall.

“The underfunding—which I do not dispute—will be tackled and services in Cornwall will continue to develop in new and innovative ways, in line with people’s expectations of the NHS in the 21st century.

“The future for Cornwall NHS looks better for the changes in the funding formula.

“As medical science continues to advance, the NHS becomes capable of ever more extraordinary feats of clinical care.

“For some complex procedures, well-equipped and well-staffed specialist centres are more effective. Round-the-clock consultant and specialist nurse expertise can be assured and expensive technology can be concentrated.

“An increasing amount of care is happening in the NHS, and much of it is out in the community in GP practices, health centres and people’s homes, with more complex, specialist or emergency care concentrated in a few more specialist centres.

“However, Ministers or civil servants in Whitehall do not decide the organisation of local health care. It is decided by local health care professionals on the ground. Organisational changes must be based on medical grounds and what is best for local patient care.”

photo: NHS website

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