Dentist and patient

Government package to improve access to dentistry

The Government have improved access to dentistry after the launch of a package of measures that will see dentists more fairly compensated for the delivery of more complex procedures.

Dentists’ pay now takes into account the amount of time it takes to deliver more complicated care, thus incentivising dental practices to take on more patients that need treatment the most.

Previously, dentists would receive the same compensation for all treatments within band 2 – fillings or tooth extractions, for example. The system didn’t account for the amount of time taken to deliver the procedures, meaning some dentists could not afford to see additional patients, which ultimately contributes to further backlog and some patients’ conditions getting worse.

Health Minister, Neil O’Brien, said: “I am determined to make sure everybody seeking NHS dental care can receive it when they need it. Our new contract rewards dentists more fairly for taking on high needs patients and delivering treatments to those who need it most.

“It will not solve all the problems overnight, but it will help improve access and ensure the system supports dentists and their teams.”

As part of the new contract, dental practices will be tasked with regularly updating the Find a Dentist tool, in order to make sure patients can make the right decision for their treatment pathway, with all the relevant data and information available.

New legislation will also give the General Dental Council (GDC) more power over its international registration processes for overseas dentists. It is expected this will make room for additional exam places and allow the GDC to accept more dentists and dental care professionals, which will ultimately support the reduction of backlog and the dearth of dental care options for many people in the UK.

Louise Ansari, National Director of Healthwatch England, said: “Thousands of people have spoken up about their struggles accessing an NHS dentist over the last few years, telling us about dental practices in many regions either closing down or not accepting new NHS patients. This announcement shows the power of their voices, with government listening and taking action.

“The changes should help people find clear and up-to-date information on dentists taking on new NHS patients, while people with more complex dental problems will find it easier to access care because of the shift in how the NHS pays dentists.

“Ultimately, we hope these combined measures will help to reduce long waiting times, the extended periods of pain many people suffer and prevent the extreme cases of DIY dentistry we have seen. These changes are a good start and when put into practice can help ensure dental care that is accessible and affordable to everyone who needs it.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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