Dentists are under pressure not to treat children as the NHS cannot afford to fund their care, a pressure group claims.
Health trusts want dentists to concentrate on targeting adult patients who have to pay for treatment, according to dental pressure group Challenge.
The comments were made on the first day of the House of Commons Health Select Committee’s Inquiry into Dental Services, and come as figures show that one in three children has not visited a dentist for up to two years.
Founder member of Challenge, Eddie Crouch, said: ‘There is a danger that children will be turned away because of undue pressure from primary care trusts to get revenue from dentists. This money obviously comes from adult patients who pay for treatment.’
He added: ‘The new arrangements have failed to provide many of the important benefits that the Department of Health wished to achieve.
‘There are growing inequalities in access to care, and the quality assurance mechanisms are woeful.’
Mr Crouch’s comments were backed by the London Regional Group of Local Dental Committees.
In a written statement to the committee it said: ‘Children and adults who are exempt from NHS charges are among the most in need of dental help.
‘Yet PCTs require dentists to ensure that a certain proportion of the patients they treat are sufficiently well off to pay for their own NHS treatment, in order to maintain the PCT’s financial balance.
‘We know of dentists who have been told that unless they see a higher proportion of paying NHS patients, they will have their contract capacity curtailed. This attitude tends to increase rather than reduce socio-economic inequalities.’
The Government set up the select committee to investigate the state of NHS dentistry after it emerged that 250,000 fewer patients saw a dentist in the year since the introduction of the new contract in April 2006.