§ Dr. Richard Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he is taking to ensure that NHS dentists understand the detail of the new NHS contract. 
§ Ms Rosie Winterton
[holding answer 4 May 2004]: This Government is committed to rebuilding and restoring National Health Service dentistry to improve the oral health of the Nation. The proposals in the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 represent the most radical reform of NHS dentistry since 1948. Our proposals for NHS dentistry will underpin a modernised, high-quality primary dental service provided through contracts between primary care trusts (PCTs) and dental practices. The service will be properly integrated with the rest of the NHS providing better access to services and an improved patient experience.
We have made considerable progress on implementation. We have consulted widely with representatives of stakeholders on the framework proposed for the new primary dental services. The consultation period ended on 30 April and we are considering the responses received and will use them to inform implementation plans.
The Department, supported by the special health authority shadow arrangements we put in place last year, will ensure that the NHS, both strategic health authorities and their PCTs, have the information they need to open meaningful discussion with their potential local providers of primary dental services to establish contracts for the provision of NHS dentistry in the new world. PCTs will be supported in this through the national primary and care trust development programme (NatPaCT) and by the shadow special health authority.628W
The underpinning principles on which we are working were set out in a letter from the Chief Dental Officer to all dentists in England in January 2004, copies of this letter have been placed in the Library. Now that the consultation on the framework proposals is over, the Department plans to communicate directly with dentists in England on a regular basis to keep them informed of developments.