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Minister's teething troubles

The Government is very keen to hold GPs responsible for any gaps in the services they provide, as its boundless enthusiasm for patient surveys amply demonstrates.

The Government is very keen to hold GPs responsible for any gaps in the services they provide, as its boundless enthusiasm for patient surveys amply demonstrates.

Ministers operate under a couple of simple rules. If a survey demonstrates shortcomings in general practice, it is up to GPs to put them right. And if a survey does not demonstrate shortcomings in general practice, it is still up to GPs to put them right.

All of which makes health minister Ben Bradshaw's comments about NHS dentistry this week all the more galling.

Faced with growing evidence of the failures of the Government's dentistry reforms, Mr Bradshaw neither accepted responsibility himself nor laid it at the door of dentists. Instead, he made it clear that patients should go and see their GP to ‘demand what is now their right'.

Damaging consequences

If Mr Bradshaw had wanted to find a way to provoke the small proportion of GPs not already acutely frustrated by anti-doctor spin, he could not have chosen his words more carefully.

Unfortunately, this time there are damaging practical consequences to his comments, with the legions of patients unable to access local dental services now served with a Government pass to see their GP instead.

Never mind that GPs do not have the time or the training to deal with dental problems. Never mind that whoever is responsible for the NHS dentistry fiasco, it is surely not GPs.

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