An independent review is to be conducted into NHS dentistry, health secretary Alan Johnson has announced.

The review comes amid reports of patchy access to dentistry in some parts of the country and declining rates of complex treatments.

Its aims are to:

  • identify ways government and the local NHS can work together to boost access;

  • identify whether the decline in complex treatments reflects the clinical need of patients;

  • suggest how to reduce inequalities in oral health.

It will also make recommendations on how funding for dentistry should be allocated to primary care trusts and how workforce planning, training and regulation should be developed.

The review team will be chaired by Professor Jimmy Steele, chair in oral health services research at the School of Dental Sciences in Newcastle.

Cumbria PCT consultant in dental public health Eric Rooney, Heart of Birmingham teaching PCT clinical director of salaried dental services Janet Clarke, and Milton Keynes PCT director of contracts Tom Wilson make up the rest of the team.

Access boost

In the past year, the department has boosted funding for dentistry by£2bn and increased undergraduate dentist training posts by 25 per cent.

Mr Johnson said it was "disappointing" that despite the investment in some parts of the country people are unable to find an NHS dentist.

"I have appointed the independent review team to help us understand what more needs to be done to ensure that every person who wants to visit an NHS dentist can do so," he said.

"The review team will also advise on how we can ensure that all NHS dental services meet the highest standards of care. We want to make sure that every patient's needs are met and that dentists are carrying out the right level of preventative care."