NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dentists Hard to Find in British National Health Service

August 14, 2003

The British National Health Service (NHS) is so lacking in dentists that recently 600 people queued up for a chance at 300 slots at a dental clinic that accepts NHS patients.

  • In England and Wales, 40 percent of dentists will not accept NHS patients.
  • British dentists now earn half their income from private patients -- up 40 percent from 10 years ago.
  • NHS dentists see an average of 30 to 40 patients per day compared with 12 a day in the United States.
  • Wales's 2.9 million people have only 1,000 dentists -- one-third of whom plan to retire by 2008.

Critics charge the quality of NHS dentistry is poor because of the frantic pace with which dentists must work. Over the years, the NHS has reduced payments to dentists for each task they perform such as each filling, root canal, etc. They are sometimes accused of performing unnecessary work, and they earn much less than their colleagues in private practice.

Fewer dental schools operate in Britain than in the past. Because of the problems obtaining appointments, more and more people are waiting until the last possible minute to get their teeth fixed. And they are forgoing routine exams and cleaning.

Source: Lizette Alvarez, "A Nagging Pain in Britain: How to Find a Dentist," New York Times, August 12, 2003.


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