The National Health Service (NHS) is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom. Only the English NHS is officially called the National Health Service, the others being NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is called the HSC rather than the NHS. Each system operates independently, and is politically accountable to the relevant government: the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, or the UK government.
Despite their separate funding and administration, there is no discrimination when a resident of one country of the United Kingdom requires treatment in another although a patient will often be returned to their home area when they are fit to be moved. The financial and administrative consequences are dealt with by the organisations involved and no personal involvement by the patient is required.
Statistics published by The Information Centre offer further evidence that the Government's 2006 reforms are failing to achieve their aim of improving access to NHS dentistry. The figures show that more than a quarter of a million people across England have lost access to NHS dentistry since the implementation of reforms in April 2006.
The statistics show that 27,879,000 patients were seen by an NHS dentist in England in the 24 months up to 30 June 2007, compared to 28,145,000 in the 24 months up to 31 March 2006, a reduction of 266,000 patients. This figure is in addition to the approximately two million people that the Department of Health acknowledges wanted access but were unable to get it before March 2006.
Peter Ward, Chief Executive of the British Dental Association, said:
"These statistics offer further evidence that the Government's reforms to NHS dentistry aren't achieving their stated aims. This contract has failed to improve access for patients and failed to allow dentists to deliver the kind of modern, preventive care they believe their patients deserve.
"It's time that the Government started listening to what dentists and patients are telling them and recognise that urgent action is required to address these problems."