Published: 19/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5823 Page 8

The government has failed to tackle long-standing problems with dental healthcare in England and Wales despite numerous reports on the subject, according to the author of the latest report from the Audit Commission.

Dentistry - primary dental care services in England and Wales criticises poor access to services in some areas, failures of the existing remuneration system and inappropriate dental care.

Dr Richard Waite, project manager and co-author of the report, said: 'We feel the government is not firm enough in its commitment to change.'

Experiments with personal dental services in some parts of the country have shown that the service is popular and effective. But Dr Waite said it had not been pushed sufficiently hard elsewhere.

The report identifies continuing problems with unnecessary activity, such as scaling and polishing.

This is purely cosmetic for many people, but accounts for 11 per cent of dental costs -£130m a year in England and£7m in Wales.

Dr Waite said Department of Health reports in 1994 and 2000 had drawn attention to the issue.

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