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​35% collapse in earnings undermining NHS dentistry

15 September 2016

​35% collapse in earnings undermining NHS dentistry

35% collapse in earnings undermining NHS dentistry

An historic collapse in dentists' earnings across the UK is jeopardising needed investment in NHS dentistry, says the British Dental Association.

BDA analysis of new official figures on earnings and expense levels in NHS dental practice shows both self-employed associate dentists and practice owners in England and Wales have seen taxable income fall by 35% in real terms over the last decade. The story is replicated across the UK nations, with real terms falls in Scotland and Northern Ireland of well over a quarter since 2009.

Unlike their medical colleagues NHS dentists do not receive any capital investment from central government. These profits therefore serve to fund all improvements in equipment, training and facilities for NHS practices.

The BDA has recently pointed to chronic underinvestment in NHS dentistry, and the inflated charges that have helped drive 600,000 patients with dental problems to GPs every year.

The dentists' professional body has renewed its call for fair funding.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the BDA's Chair of General Dental Practice said:

"This 35% fall in NHS dentists' real incomes over the last decade is without parallel in the public sector.

"Governments across the UK are squeezing NHS dentistry until the pips squeak. Every penny of investment this service receives comes from dentists' own pockets, and this collapse in real incomes has a real impact on our ability to deliver the improvements in facilities, equipment, and training our patients deserve. 

"These savage cuts have long ceased to be a question of 'pay restraint' or 'efficiency savings'. A wilful singling out of an entire sector of dedicated health professionals is irresponsible, unsustainable, and carries consequences for millions of NHS patients.

"The government has taken £170 million of direct funding out of NHS dentistry in England since 2010, and there are no pledges of capital investment to sweeten this pill. Our patients deserve better than a strategy that rests on them putting in more, while ministers pay less."

MPs call for medical cannabis to be made legal

Taking cannabis for medical reasons should be made legal, says a cross-party group of UK politicians.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform says there is clear evidence cannabis could have a therapeutic role for some conditions, including chronic pain and anxiety.

It says tens of thousands of people in the UK already break the law to use the drug for symptom relief.

But the Home Office says there are no plans to legalise the "harmful drug."

Plant cannabis contains more than 60 chemicals.

The All Party Parliamentary Group wants the Home Office to reclassify herbal cannabis under existing drug laws, from schedule one to schedule four.

This would put it in the same category as steroids and sedatives and mean doctors could prescribe cannabis to patients, and chemists could dispense it.

Patients might even be allowed to grow limited amounts of cannabis for their own consumption.

People with multiple sclerosis can legally take a cannabis-based medicine.

This licensed medicine, called Sativex, is a mouth spray and contains two chemical extracts (THC and CBD) derived from the cannabis plant.

Under current laws in England and Wales, cannabis is not recognised as having any therapeutic value and anyone using the drug, even for medical reasons, could be charged for possession.

The NHS warns that cannabis use carries a number of risks, such as impairing the ability to drive, as well as causing harm to lungs if smoked and harm to mental health, fertility or unborn babies.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform took evidence from 623 patients, representatives of the medical professions and people with knowledge of how medical cannabis was regulated across the world.

The science of laughter

Laughter is weird - and we do it a lot. One study found that people laugh seven times for every 10 minutes of conversation.

We don't do it when we think we do. It's been found that if you ask people what makes them laugh they'll talk about jokes and humour, but we laugh most frequently when we are with other people - and hardly ever at jokes.

It's a social emotion and we use it to make and maintain social bonds.

We also make very strange noises when we laugh - from wheezes and squeaks to gasps and snorts - and each sound simply reflects the muscles in the chest squeezing out air from our ribcages under very high pressures.

My laugh is very high-pitched, far higher than I could produce when trying to sing, for example.

Laughter is also a very primitive way of making a sound.

MRI images show that when someone laughs, there is no real movement of the tongue, jaw, soft palate and lips. All the action is happening at the ribcage.

Laughter is a non-verbal emotional expression and these sounds, which we typically make when in the grip of quite strong emotions, are more like animal calls than they are like our normal speech.

We make them in very simple ways (unlike speech) and they are controlled by an evolutionarily "older" brain system, one that looks after vocalisation in all mammals (unlike speech).

This is why a stroke can rob someone of the ability to speak, but leave them able to laugh and cry. They have suffered damage to the brain areas that enable them to speak, but the older emotional system is still intact.

What do you think? What would you do to encourage more students to study medicine? Would you like to see 

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