The government today (Thursday) confirmed its commitment to improving the oral health of NHS patients, particularly children.
It announced the 68 dental practices which will trial new changes to the current dental contract.
The trials will look at ways of increasing patient access and promoting preventive dental treatments like fluoride varnish.
Dentists have consistently said that the current contract leaves dentists concentrating on activity with no specific rewards for high quality care or for delivering prevention.
The pilot practices will address this by testing changes that will see dentists paid for the number of patients they care for and the health results, rather than the number of courses of treatment dentists perform.
The plan is to introduce a new dental contract that focuses on improving the quality of care patients receive and is part of the wider plans to modernise the NHS.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:’It is vital that patients receive high quality dental care and we are committed to promoting good oral health and preventing dental decay, especially in children.
‘The government believes dentists should get paid for the quality of treatment they provide rather than simply for the number of treatments. This is not only better for patients, but also a better use of NHS resources.
‘The pilot sites will test different ways of putting this approach into practice. What we learn from this process will inform the new contract.’
Professor Jimmy Steele, who led the group that developed the pilot proposals, said: ‘It is vital that any further changes to dental contracting are piloted prior to the introduction of a new dental contract. It is heartening to see the profession engaging so positively in the pilot process.
‘Oral health has improved but the risks of decay and gum disease are still high for many people. It is now time to focus attention on achieving healthy mouths as our outcome and not just volumes of treatment provided.’
The launch has been welcomed by the British Dental Association (BDA).
Dr John Milne, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said: ‘In the run-up to the 2010 General Election, I made a plea for Professor Steele’s report not to become a political football and encouraged dentists to engage with politicians to encourage whoever won the election to see the reform process through. It is a tribute to the lobbying of the profession that Steele’s principles have transcended a change of Government and have now reached the stage where pilots are being officially launched.
‘This announcement is a positive step and the pilots must now be given the time they need to produce meaningful results and a clear direction for any final arrangements. It is also important that Government continues to engage with the BDA as reform progresses and new NHS structures are developed. The General Dental Practice Committee will continue its policy of vigilant engagement as the process moves forward.’