Early signs of change in dental care

Dentists are now carrying out fewer fillings, radiographs and crowns in a typical course of treatment than they did three years ago, suggests a new report.

The report, titled Dental Treatment Band Analysis, England 2007 and published by The Information Centre for health and social care (The IC), provides an early indication that the care patients receive from their dentists has changed since 2003/04.

The interim study compares courses of treatment between April and July 2007 (the first four months of the second year since the new contract came into effect) with equivalent information for 2003/04. The year 2003/04 was chosen for comparison because it was last period in which financial processes and patient care were stable before the widespread transfer from General Dental Services (GDS) to Personal Dental Services (PDS) from 2004/05 to 2005/06.

The report shows:
• The number of radiographs carried out in every 100 CoTs (courses of treatment) fell from 53 in 2003/04 to 32 in 2007.
• The number of fillings fell from 50 in every 100 CoTs in 2003/04 to 45 in 2007. However, the percentage of CoTs with fillings increased from 28% to 31%.
• The percentage of Band 3 CoTs with crowns fell from 46% in 2003/04 to 35% in 2007.
• The percentage of Band 3 CoTs with dentures rose from 39% to 48%. This was largely due to an increase in partial dentures with full dentures fitted remaining unchanged.

The IC’s acting chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘The findings of this interim study provide early evidence that the care patients receive could be changing following the introduction of the new dental contractual arrangements with a decline in most complex types of treatment.

‘The information will be useful evidence for the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body when they consider dentists’ pay in the future.’

The report is available at: http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/dentaltba07

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