New-contract inquiry to be launched

MPs are to launch an inquiry into the government’s controversial dental reforms.

The Commons Health Select Committee plans to kick-off its investigation when members return from their summer break in October.

Professional associations and other industry representatives will initially be invited to submit their assessments of the new contract in writing.

The Committee is then expected to hold between two and four evidence sessions in Westminster, where expert witnesses will be quizzed on how the new system is working in practice.

The final report, which will include a series of recommendations for the Department of Health, will be published next year.

A Committee spokesman said: ‘The committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into the dental contracts, including the general dental contract and the NHS personal dental services agreement.

‘Further details, including terms of reference, will be announced in due course.’

One of the members of the committee, Liberal Democrat dentistry spokeswoman Sandra Gidley, said: ‘The first aim with any inquiry is to establish the facts around any given subject and we cannot consider outcomes at this stage.

‘However, if my constituency casework is anything to go by, it would seem clear that access to dentistry has deteriorated yet further and that the new contract does not encourage preventive dentistry.’

Mrs Gidley, who represents the constituency of Romsey in Hampshire, added: ‘We always plan to ask the minister the tough questions but in this case I feel sorry for the minister [Ann Keen] who has inherited the complete mess created by her predecessor [Rosie Winterton].

‘Whether she has the guts to do something radical to improve the problem remains to be seen.’

The Health Committee, in a report on NHS charges published in July last year, recommended then that the Department of Health carry out a wide-ranging review. But the Government, in its official response to MPs in October, rejected calls for an investigation.

By Andy Tate, Parliamentary Correspondent

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