§ Mr. Barry Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the level of NHS dentistry in Wales; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jon Owen Jones
In Wales at the end of September 1998, 60 per cent. of children and 46 per cent. of adults were registered with NHS dentists, having visited them at least once during the preceding 15 months.
NHS net spending on general dental services in Wales in 1997/98 rose to £56.2 million, a 6 per cent. increase over the previous year. Over the same period, the number of courses of NHS treatment, for adults in Wales, rose by nearly 7 per cent. to 1.446 million. The number of dentists treating patients under NHS arrangements in Wales reached an all-time high of 960 by the end of 1998.
The Welsh Office dental initiative, first launched in 1995, has enabled Welsh Health Authorities to offer unprecedented levels of grant (up to £50,000 in some areas) to attract new dentists and for the expansion of the Community Dental Service. It has been very successful for Wales as a whole but there are still some areas where certain categories of patients may find it difficult to register with an NHS dentist close to home.
The initiative was modified and re-launched in July 1998. The modified scheme provides more flexibility in terms of the extent and length of commitment required and offers more flexible conditions which are specifically designed to address the particular problems of rural areas.
Following the transfer of functions, this issue will be a matter for the National Assembly.