Dental strategy is welcome, but HAs must act now to fill gaps in provision

The launch of this week's dental strategy is another indication of the government's determination to 'save' the NHS.

But dentists are already saying it will not work: there is not enough money and the measures promised are inadequate Health authorities will certainly need to make creative use of their new powers to plug the huge gaps that now exist in NHS dental provision.

On the other hand, it is encouraging that they have been given radical new powers.

How long dentists will give even luke-warm support to the plans when they realise they entail the same sort of pilots and performance measures that have doctors up in arms is a moot point.

But if HAs don't act, the British Dental Association is likely to be proved right. Mr Blair's promise of universal access to dentistry will mean little more than an assurance that NHS Direct will be able to find patients a dentist 50 miles away - as long as an appointment early next Thursday suits.