NHS update – dental contract arrangements for 2022/23 and testing

13 April 2022
3 min read
Published:

Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, and Ali Sparke, director for dentistry, community pharmacy, optometry and the NHS standard contract, recently provided an update for NHS dental professionals, to discuss the dental contract arrangements for 2022/23 and covid testing.

With the contract being the primary focus of the update, they share, “We have written today to confirm dental contract arrangements for 2022/23, which set out a further step we are taking to support practices. We have also announced additional support for Q4 2021/22, following through on our commitment to review the impact of Omicron.

“Contractual requirements have always been designed to secure safe levels of patient access and reduce financial penalties for practices for reasons that may have been outside of their control. Following a review of transmitted data to date within Q4 we have introduced a minimum threshold of 75 per cent for units of dental activity (UDA) for contractors only.

“We all recognise the backlog of care which has accumulated during the period where dental services have not operated at full capacity. Many contractors are already delivering over 100 per cent, and it critical those contractors who are not already there make progress to return as quickly as possible to the pre-pandemic activity levels. Our current plan is for a return to normal contracting arrangements from July 2022, and we will confirm these arrangements separately. However, we have agreed a further exceptional period of support for Q1 at 95 per cent for dental contractors only.

“We can also confirm the Standard Operating Procedure has been withdrawn, with immediate effect. More details about the dental year end arrangements 22/23 are set out below. 

“Over the coming period, as signalled in December, we will announce a set of further changes to the current contract resulting from discussions with the profession since 2021 and in consultation more recently with the British Dental Association, with the aim of improving dental services as normal contracting arrangements resume.”

They also add, “Thank you for the effort you have put in over the past few months to support NHS patients. It was fantastic to see so many of you at the BDIA Dental Showcase. We thoroughly enjoyed engaging with you on areas from sustainability to clinical policy to leadership. We hope it provided a useful opportunity to reflect.”

Dental services year end arrangements and 2022/23

Discussing future arrangements in more detail, the update continues, “During the pandemic we set out further guidance for practices on how to operate, via the dental standard operating procedure. As the NHS moves in line with the government’s Living with Covid strategy, we will now archive the dental SOP. Guidance on infection prevention and control measures contained in the UKHSA IPC guidance remain under review.  Any changes will be notified to you once published.

“Practices are reminded that urgent dental care should be provided as part of their core service offer to patients, and that adherence to risk based recall intervals and other NICE guidance is a contractual requirement.

“For orthodontic services, which have been able to return to normal levels of activity more rapidly, normal contract volumes will be in place for 2022/23.

“Recognising there will be additional steps some contractors may need to take to return to full contractual delivery we have agreed an exceptional further period of support for the first quarter of 2022/23. A performance threshold of 95 per cent units of dental activity (UDAs) will apply during April to June (Q1) 2022/23.

“The full year income protection set at 90 per cent of contracted activity for practices exiting the prototype programme will continue, as previously communicated.

“The conditions for income protection continue to apply. All practices delivering NHS services must continue to use 100 per cent of their contracted capacity for NHS work.

“As always, arrangements will be kept under review subject to further significant covid developments or elevated IPC requirements.”

Read their letter here.

You can find end of year arrangements guidance online here. 

Living with Covid-19 – testing update

Sara and Ali also provided dental care professionals, writing, “From April 1, in line with UKHSA advice, the following updated testing arrangements for NHS staff and staff working in NHS-funded independent healthcare settings in England, will apply:

“Patient facing staff should continue to test twice weekly when asymptomatic. LAMP testing (saliva tests) will no longer be available, but LFD tests for patient facing staff will continue to be available through the gov.uk portal.

“All symptomatic staff should test using LFDs and continue to follow the current return to work guidance. In a change to testing policy, staff who are household contacts of a positive Covid-19 case will now be able to continue to work as normal if they remain asymptomatic and continue to test twice weekly. They will no longer be required to have a PCR test in order to return to work. Symptomatic staff can continue to access LFDs via the gov.uk portal.

“Although the general public will not be offered Covid-19 tests routinely if symptomatic, there may be some instances where a clinician will want to offer a Covid-19 test as part of a diagnostic pathway to support clinical decisions. In these cases, patients should be directed to the gov.uk website to order their tests, where they will be asked to confirm that their clinician has requested this.

“High risk patients in the community identified for Covid-19 MAB / Antiviral treatment will continue to access tests from UKHSA – this will be communicated separately. Further information can be found in our letter dated March 30, 2022.

“Thank you again for all your work in support of the Covid-19 response to date.”