The commissioning of NHS dental services is experiencing a turbulent period as it contends with structural change in the NHS, the launch of pilots for a new dental contract and pressures on funding. That’s according to the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) 2011 Dental Commissioning Survey.
The research reflects a shifting landscape for primary care trusts (PCTs), in which more than a quarter (28%) of those questioned said that their commissioning functions had merged with those of other PCTs. Although a very small proportion of respondents (8%) reported that clustering had had a negative impact on their ability to answer local needs, most did not, reporting no change or a positive impact or saying that they did not know what the effect of clustering had been. Half of those questioned said that clustering had improved their ability to manage contracts.
Pilots for a new dental contract also received a largely positive verdict, with 79% of those surveyed stating they believed a new contract based on capitation and quality would increase the quality of care patients receive. More than half (53%) of respondents also believed that such a contract would improve the oral health of the local populations for which they are responsible.
The survey did uncover concerns about funding issues, however, with 21% of those surveyed reporting cuts of as much as more than 4% to their budget for salaried primary dental care, and 18% reporting smaller decreases in the budgets for hospital dentistry.
Dr Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA’s Executive Board, said:
‘This survey reveals a complex picture of the state of NHS dental commissioning, with tentative steps being taken towards a better future. The BDA has fought hard for a new contract and supported changes to commissioning arrangements that we believe will lead to a greater consistency of approach, and this is an encouraging snapshot of progress towards those goals.
‘There is no room for complacency though and a number of issues identified by the research will need to be monitored carefully as we move forward. They include ensuring the new contract is one in which dentists are confident they can provide high-quality, preventive care and that NHS staff restructuring is managed so that vital expertise is not lost.
‘The scale of the budget reductions in salaried dentistry that the survey reveals is a concern. This issue is being looked at in more detail by a BDA survey of Accredited Representatives and the results of that research will need to be studied carefully and acted on.’
Further details of the survey are available at: