- People in dental pain and distress are finding it difficult to get help.
- People are being encouraged to get help by paying as private patients.
- Advice and information on dental care is confusing, and often inaccurate and misleading.
- Dentists are struggling to provide services, cope personally and survive commercially.
NHS Dental Contract Reform and Arrangements
Coinciding with our report, on 29th March, the NHS released a letter to all NHS dental contract holders which provides an update on NHS Dental Contract Reform and Arrangements.
The dental contract has been a difficult issue since it was introduced with Healthwatch - along with many other stakeholders - saying that it caused and exacerbated problems with access to services.
There has been some work taking place to look at different 'prototypes' and NHS England (NHSE) will look at the next stage of development.
There are six aims with the work that NHSE will do and Healthwatch is clear that all of these must apply. Points 4 and 5, in particular, respond to what we have been hearing from you especially since the disruption caused by COVID-19.
Contract changes must:
1. Be designed with the support of the dental profession
2. Improve oral health outcomes
3. Increase incentives to undertake preventive dentistry, prioritise evidence based care for patients with the most needs, and reduce incentives to deliver care that is of low clinical value
4. Improve patient access to NHS care, with a specific focus on addressing inequalities, particularly deprivation and ethnicity
5. Demonstrate that patients are not having to pay privately for dental care that was previously commissioned NHS dental care
6. Be affordable within NHS resources made available by Government.
This is only the start of the process - and Healthwatch will continue to monitor and escalate your concerns.
If you've ever wondered what we do with your insight, this is it, so thank you for all you've shared and do keep sharing your experiences with us. The information you have provided so far has been vital.