The British Dental Association (BDA) has condemned the gulf in support offered to over 100 pioneering practices in England, who after years of testing new ways of providing NHS care, are being forced back to working to historic models of care from April.
These 'prototype' practices volunteered to form the test bed for new ways of delivering dentistry, to replace the widely discredited target-based NHS dental contract. In October they were informed that regulations supporting new ways of working would not be renewed.
NHS England has now confirmed it will be offering a helpline and patient leaflets. Whilst it is anticipated other NHS practices will have to hit 100 per cent of pre-covid activity from April 1, 2022, to escape financial penalties, these practices will be given leeway of hitting 90 per cent.
Under systems being tested, dentists were allocated greater time to assess the oral health needs of patients and provide needed care. This reduced the volume of patients these practices could treat, and their patient base. Pledges were made to practices that there would be no detriment as a result of their participation in the programme.
Reverting to existing models of care has taken up to four years for practices that have left the programme in the past. Practices are anticipated to face severe staffing problems, aggravated by already acute recruitment problems across the service. Many practices are already facing real issues with their long sustainability, hitting an 85 per cent activity target the BDA believe are wholly unrealistic during this phase of the pandemic.
Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said, "The support offered to these pioneering practices is too little, too late.
"Colleagues who volunteered to find a new and better way of delivering NHS dentistry have been thrown under a bus. After committing years of effort their reward amounts to a helpline, a few leaflets, and the uncertainty of starting again, effectively from scratch.
"These NHS practices were given the time to care that all dentists require. Going back to chasing targets could take years, and there will inevitably be casualties.
"Patients will once again pay the price for the reckless decisions taken by government."