Oral Health Foundation CEO ponders NHS contract reform
A new package of proposals to reform NHS dentistry in England has received a mixed response from the Oral Health Foundation. In a letter penned to dental practices, NHS England outlined the first significant changes to the delivery of NHS dental care in 16 years.
Dr Nigel Carter (top) chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “The new reforms to NHS dentistry are welcome changes in the right direction. The long-awaited adjustments to UDAs should make it easier to treat high-need patients and go some way in reducing inequalities. The dental profession has been calling for such changes for over a decade, so they are long overdue.
“We are also supporting the move of allowing dental therapists to start courses of treatment, although even more must be done to fully utilise the skills of the entire dental team. Unfortunately, the new reforms stop well short of addressing urgent issues within NHS dentistry, such as the diminishing workforce and access to NHS dentistry.
“A move towards extending recall intervals will only scratch the surface of current access problems, and a plan to address manpower shortages is needed immediately. It is also extremely disappointing that the new reforms do not in any way tackle the postcode lottery of dental access in England.
“Fundamental reform is still needed. Whether it is increasing the NHS dental workforce, or improving access across England, there must be a greater commitment toward additional funding for NHS dentistry. Despite servicing an ever-increasing population, government investment in NHS dentistry continues to decline in the UK. Ultimately, reforms without the necessary financial investment will only have a limited and short-term effect.”
A summary of changes to NHS dentistry, which will take effect from this Autumn, include:
• A minimum UDA (Units of Dental Activity) value. The payment dentists receive for hitting a target is now set at a minimum of £23.00.
• A higher reward for treating three or more teeth. Dentists will now receive five UDAs for treating three or more teeth. This is an increase on the current level of three UDAs which are applied to any number of teeth treated.
• A new payment rate for complex treatment. Root canal treatment on molar teeth will now be rewarded with seven UDAs.
• A greater role for dental therapists. This means that other members of the dental team can start treatments for patients with the hope of reducing access issues.