10 DECEMBER 1948, Page 3

Mr. Bevan and the Dentists

It is to be hoped that the dentists are not anxious to quarrel with the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Health with the dentists. The difference that has arisen between them was inevitable. Mr. Bevan appointed the Spens Committee to advise on what would be reasonable fees to allow the dentists under the National Health Service scheme, and the committee suggested figures so generous as to astonish everyone, including the dentists themselves. The Minister had no alternative but to accept the findings of the com- mittee he had appointed, but he soon made it clear that there would have to be a revision at the end of twelve months. Unfortunately it has not been possible to wait as long as that, partly because the incomes the dentists have been earning lay so heavy a drain on the Exchequer, and partly because such incomes are rapidly attracting school dentists away into the lucrative private practice. Hence the intention of the Minister to enact that when a professional dentist's income reaches the figure of £4,800 gross he shall retain only so per cent. of any further earnings above that figure. On the dentist's side it must be recognised that his expenses, particularly on skilled mechanics, are high and that £4,800 gross is far from making dentistry a plutocratic profession. So far, moreover, as dentists are earning higher net incomes than they were it is largely because they have been working overtime to meet the unprecedented demand for their services which the Health Service Act has prompted. On the financial side the dentists are not unreasonable. They recognise that for simple fillings and extractions the figure fixed admits of some reduction. There must be frank discussion of the whole situation between the Minister and the British Dental Associa- tion. No difficulties have arisen that do not lend themselves, as between men of good will, to an equitable and satisfactory settlement.