The Department of Health has announced it will unveil Mike Warburton’s access template agreement on Monday.
The launch – which coincides with one of the biggest trade events on the dental calendar, this weekend’s BDTA Showcase – follows September’s controversy over the first draft contract posted out by some PCTs ahead of schedule as part of their tendering process.
Then, the draft sent shockwaves through the industry with plans to pay practitioners only half their agreed payments each month – the remainder being paid in quarterly sums – and its lack of real piloting demanded by the Steele report.
However, talking exclusively to Dentistry, chief dental officer Barry Cockcroft maintained that ‘this piece of work [dental access programme] was going on beforehand and is NOT a replacement for Jimmy Steele’s review pilots’.
Joined by Dr Mike Warburton, leader of the dental access programme team, Dr Cockcroft promised that ‘significant changes have been made’, having ‘taken on board’ the views of interested parties and key stakeholders, including the BDA and LDCs, those at grassroots level, local bidders and generally, a ‘broad range of providers’.
However, he admitted the ‘BDA will still have reservations’ about certain aspects, but saw no reason why PCTs cannot begin rolling out the template agreement from next week.
Dr Warburton said there were already PCTs waiting to use the contract in their procurement of dental services and that ‘10 to 15 or maybe 20 would be ready to use it immediately’.
Dumped are the part payments – previously seen in September’s draft – and in are 12 monthly payments (with an option at six months to amend), ‘as a regular income suits dentists’, the CDO acknowledged.
He added, however, that while ‘any contract clearly has to specify what one side wants and what the other is going to provide’ the PCTs are ‘free to change [the agreement] to suit circumstances’.
Also within the template is a continuation clause. This follows the fear among the profession – and expressed by Susie Sanderson, chairwoman of the BDA’s executive board – that September’s draft suggested contracts would ‘revert back to the PCT after five years’ by default.
Discussing the timescale between the profession understanding – and getting to grips with –the legal implications of this template contract, and the PCTs implementing it, Dr Cockcroft maintained that dentists are ‘well organised at doing that sort of thing now’.
It’s understood that the DoH wants to put about 150 contracts out to tender aimed at tackling access and inequality problems across the country.
Workshops are currently being held throughout the country to address the process of dental access procurement – these set out to introduce the policy aspects of the DAP and to provide information on the early steps of the procurement process.