Fury over imported NHS dentists with no patients

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/mai...ole22.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/05/22/ixhome.html

Fury over the NHS dentists from Poland on full pay but with no patients
By Karyn Miller, Health Correspondent
(Filed: 22/05/2005)

The part-time cleaner who told Tony Blair that the collapse of health service dentistry had forced her to extract her own teeth said that she felt "let down and angry" to learn that a team of Polish dentists, flown in to relieve the crisis, had spent months on full pay without treating patients.

Valerie Holsworth, 65, who confronted the Prime Minister during a live television broadcast with a graphic account of how she had pulled out seven of her teeth - some with her husband's pliers - spoke out after it emerged that only one of four dentists recruited to work in North Yorkshire, a black spot for NHS dental treatment, had been given a full-time position. The remaining three spent two months on "gardening leave", during which time they were paid their full £48,000-a-year salaries, before being given limited work.

Instead of helping to reduce the waiting list of people seeking NHS treatment, at least two of the Poles have been put to work part-time on a "job share" with existing dentists, who have reduced their own hours.

Mrs Holsworth lives in Scarborough, where last year the sight of 300 residents queuing at dawn to register with a new NHS dental practice came to symbolise the crisis in the health service. "At this rate I will be lucky if I find a dentist by the time I am 71," she said.

John Renshaw, the president of the British Dental Association, told The Sunday Telegraph: "You would have thought that if the primary care trust was going to import practitioners from abroad at considerable expense, they would have made sure that they had somewhere for them to work. It seems like a logical thing to do.

"We can't possibly justify spending taxpayers' money on bringing people over here, and then having them sitting around doing nothing."

Under orders from the local primary care trust, none of the Polish dentists would talk to The Sunday Telegraph. However Mr Renshaw, who himself practises in Scarborough, said that he had been in contact with two of them. "They are certainly working some of the time, but whether they are working all the time is another issue," he said. "It is very frustrating for them. They came here to a welcome, and they want to work."

The dentists' employment status came to light as a result of an investigation by journalists at the Yorkshire Post which estimated that the debacle has cost more than £100,000 of taxpayers' money.

Last week the BDA urged the Government to "be more honest" about the scale of Britain's dental shortages. A consumer survey found that more than half of the eight million people who had tried to register with an NHS dentist in the past two years had encountered difficulties.

In 1999, Tony Blair pledged that everybody would have access to NHS dentistry. However, Scarborough has become symbolic of the nationwide shortage, which means that only 41 per cent of adults in England and Wales are registered with an NHS dentist.

The Government has encouraged the recruitment of dentists from abroad to tackle the shortage.

A spokesman for Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Primary Care Trust, which recruited the Polish dentists, could not confirm when they had started treating patients but insisted that each had started receiving "clinical work" in February - after participating in a prolonged "clinical induction programme". She claimed that 5,650 residents had registered with an NHS dentist over the past year, and denied that there was a shortage of dental facilities in the area.

Yesterday the Department of Health said: "We are not aware of any internationally recruited dentist having no work to do."
 

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