I came across the book “Medicine and Society” recently. Its author, Henry Miller, was Dean of Medicine and later Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and this book was published in 1973, the year I started as an Undergraduate.
Writing in the preface Miller concisely states that “This book is concerned with the impact of the revolution in biomedical science on society and on current medical practice.” It would be of interest to anyone who wonders how we have reached this point in medicine and if the changes that Miller predicted have come about – and whether they have been for the better.
It is his view of dentistry, of course, that I looked at first and it’s a shame that nobody took any notice of what he had to say, we might not be in the pickle we find ourselves in now. Judge for yourself from these snippets:
- The facts about British dental health certainly qualify it as another neglected area of the health service. Our dentists extract 10 million decayed teeth and carry out thirty million fillings.
- There can be no doubt that fluoridation of the water supply is the simplest and most effective prophylactic measure.
- The (national health) practitioners are grossly overworked and the system encourages fast work and the use of the cheapest materials available.
- The fee for full dentures under the NHS is £16.50 – the fee in Germany under the Social Health Insurance service is £120. The German technician receives more that twice as much as the total fee of the British dentist and technician combined, for the same service.
- One of the most alarming features of this situation is the low morale of the profession….the financial basis of remuneration might have been specifically designed to produce a cheap and nasty service…
- …it also ensures that since dentistry is arduous and physically as well as mentally exhausting, this is the only profession where for the majority of practitioners earnings decline progressively after middle-age.
“Hanging on in quiet desperation, it’s the English way”Pink Floyd
Yet it need not be this way….