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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The dental reforms that were introduced on 1 April will enable the local NHS in South Derbyshire to improve access to dentistry. The PCTs in southern Derbyshire now have dedicated local budgets to commission dental services, including an additional £250,000 to expand local provision, and they have already received a number of expressions of interest to provide new services.
Mr. Todd: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but draw her attention to the fact that South Derbyshireand Swadlincote, in particularis one of the fastest growing areas in the country, so the pressures on dentistry are much more acute than in other parts of the country. The recent contractual reform has not been followed by a complete take-up, so my hon. Friend may find that the sum available is insufficient to guarantee even the continuing commitment of dentists who have already contracted but have queries about their contracts.
Ms Winterton: I was glad to see that in the Derbyshire Dales and South Derbyshire PCT there has been 100 per cent. take-up of the new contract. In the Greater Derby PCT there have been two rejections out of a total of 22. That certainly demonstrates that dentists have looked into the terms and conditions on offer and have realised that it amounts to a good deal. I am aware that in the particular area that my hon. Friend mentioned, the PCT is already putting out to tender a contract to provide three or four dentists in a specific practice, but I cannot comment on all the individual contract negotiations. I believe, however, that the outcome will be an improved service in that area.
Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury)
(Con): We know from an internal Labour party briefing note that was leaked last week that there has been an 8 per cent. reduction in the number of dentists who are willing to undertake NHS work in the strategic health authority that is responsible for South Derbyshire. In other words, fewer dentists are doing less NHS dentistry in South Derbyshirewhat a triumph for the new contract. Will the Minister say how many of South Derbyshire's remaining NHS dentists have signed up on a qualified "in dispute" basisin other words, how many more of them may quit in the months ahead? How much success has there been in reallocating any unused units of dental activity in the SHA that covers South Derbyshire?
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Ms Winterton: I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not apologised for giving the impression that there was going to be a mass exodus from the NHS. Time after time, his party stated that that was the absolute truth, but it has not proved to be the case. Nine out of 10 dentists have signed upit is true that some of them have signed up "in dispute". In the Derbyshire Dales and South Derbyshire PCT, for example, four dentists are in dispute, but 100 per cent. of dentists have signed up. On units of dental activity, many PCTs have already reached the levels of units of dental activity that were set for them, because of the new system for commissioning dentistry. On top of that, we expect many of the disputes to be resolved by the local resolution procedure, before perhaps going to the NHS Litigation Authority, which is the last resort. The hon. Gentleman should not only thank the dentists who have signed upas I have said, there are many more of them than he predictedbut pay tribute to the hard work by local PCTs in ensuring that there is now better access to NHS dentistry and that the reforms have taken place in the way we planned.
Mr. Dismore: I can tell my right hon. Friend that Barnet PCT was able to break evenin fact, it achieved a small underspend. Given that achievement, the local community feels hard done by, because some £12 million has been top-sliced off this year's budget, which means less progress on waiting times and on new initiatives, such as the spirometry service at Edgware hospital. What guarantees can my right hon. Friend give that the money will be returned, and when will it be returned?
Jane Kennedy: The many NHS organisations, such as Barnet PCT, that have not only broken even, but created a surplus while maintaining excellent levels of service will receive the funding back in the following year. The SHAs will be working with health organisations in my hon. Friend's area in north London to ensure that that repayment takes place.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Caroline Flint):
Welcome back, Mr. Speaker. The national chlamydia screening programme has been rolled out successfully to 25 per cent. of PCTs, and we expect to see national screening in all other areas during 2006, which is well ahead of the 2007 target. We have also contracted Boots the Chemist to evaluate the potential of retail pharmacies as chlamydia screening
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venues. Screening started on 14 November 2005, and the two-year pilot will be independently evaluated by TNS Healthcare.
Laura Moffatt: It is good to see you back in your place, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to hear about the work on chlamydia, which leads to so many heartbreaking stories involving women and infertility. Does this House accept that men must also take responsibility, because only 17 per cent. of men turn up for chlamydia screening? What is her Department going to do to improve those figures, so that we can all take responsibility for that damaging condition?
Caroline Flint: Clearly, chlamydia is an important issue. It is a sexually transmitted infection that leads to ectopic pregnancies and is a major cause of infertility. All men and women, inside and outside this House, should take it very seriously. My hon. Friend makes an important point about men. We offer a world-class service in providing screening, which, unlike in other countries, is available for men and for women. We are trying to find settings where we can reach men and make them aware of their responsibilities in this regard. We have screening services at colleges, prisons and military bases, and we are evaluating the number of men who use the Boots service. We are open to the reform and modernisation of services so that people can take forward their own responsibilities while we ensure that we provide a service that they can access.
Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): On Thursday, I met a GP who told me that he was embarrassed by how much money he has earned this year for working far fewer hours than he did last year. Does the Minister agree that if we had paid our GPs less and they had worked harder, funding would have been available for a national TV advertising campaign on the dangers of undetected chlamydia?
Caroline Flint: We will be resourcing a major national campaign on sexually transmitted infections, but it is important that that campaign and its timetable fit in with the development of services locally. I am pleased to say that of the 96 per cent. of people diagnosed with chlamydia in the second year of the programme, more than 75 per cent. were treated outside genito-urinary medicine clinics in GPs' surgeries and other health settings.
Sandra Gidley (Romsey) (LD): The Minister mentioned GUM clinics. She will be aware that the symptoms of chlamydia are sometimes mild and transient. Does she share my concern that only 49 per cent. of people are able to access a GUM clinic within 48 hours and, if so, what is she planning to do about the problem?
That is a major target but it is also a challenge for the NHS. The latest figures show that some 51 per cent. of people access a clinic within the 48-hour target. It is clear that some areas are doing better than others. Over the past six months, I have spent some of my time looking at how different services are meeting that target, because it is very important that people who want to get treatment and advice can access those services. It is
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also clear that many services to do with sexually transmitted infections, abortion and contraception could be provided in other settings outside GUM clinics. That will help to meet the 48-hour access target.
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