Steele independent review calls for dentistry shake up

Jimmy Steele’s independent review into NHS dentistry is published today (Monday) and is recommending significant changes to the way it is organised.

It includes the recommendation that a proportion of a dentist’s income should be linked to the number of NHS patients registered with them, not just the number of treatments they provide.

It also wants to see dentists more accountable for providing high quality and long-lasting treatments (e.g. fillings and root canals) and for dentists to take time to advise patients on preventive care.


The British Dental Association (BDA) has applauded the publication, calling on the Government to work constructively with patients and the profession on its findings.


It is urging the Government to heed the report’s recommendation to pilot properly reforms it introduces as a result of this report.


John Milne, Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘The BDA is pleased that this report has been published. Professor Steele and his team have clearly listened carefully to patients, dentists and primary care trusts. We have an opportunity to learn from the difficulties of 2006, and it is vital that opportunity is taken.


‘The report’s recommendations appear to be far reaching. They describe a new approach to dental care that dentists hope will mean a move away from the target-driven arrangements that are currently in place. Clearly, the detail of how that approach will be delivered will be vital.


‘What is important now is that the Government pilots properly the changes it makes and engages fully with the profession and patient groups as we move forward. The BDA looks forward to playing a full part in that process.’


The British Dental Health Foundation is also praising review author Professor Jimmy Steele and his team for their work following ‘an open and wide-reaching consultation process which supported an emphasis on prevention and evidence-based treatment to support better oral healthcare’.


Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘This thorough report and its proposals represent a sorely needed opportunity to reform the existing system and help look after Britain’s oral health.


‘The Foundation is particularly happy to note the emphasis on prevention and reward for prevention within the system, which will help more of us attain a sound level of dental hygiene to help look after our health.

‘The review marks a welcome return to continuity of treatment through patient registration and the report’s emphasis on thorough oral health assessments to determine necessary treatment and a strong evidence base for any decisions are pleasing. The proposed pyramid of need approach, addressing advanced care, routine care and emergency treatment, is a sensible plan to ensure effective treatment when required.’


He adds: ‘We also welcome a commitment to testing any proposals before they are implemented as many of the existing problems with NHS dentistry arose from a lack of thorough groundwork before contracts were introduced.’

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