Government gives thumbs up to direct access

The government has finally responded to the recent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into dentistry, supporting its recommendations on direct access.

It also agrees with the OFT that ‘the vast majority of patients are happy with their dental treatment and that the majority of dentists behave ethically’.
It supported improved information for the public, coming down hard on dentists who mislead patients.

Welcoming the OFT’s proposals for direct access to DCPs, the government wants people to be able to see the ‘right dental professional when they need to’.

It believes the contract pilots will help establish a better basis for this.

The government says it shares the concerns of the OFT that a minority of dentists deny patients all or part of the NHS care available on the basis of misinformation. It regards this ‘very seriously’ and points out that any dentist doing this deliberately is in breach of their NHS contract.

The OFT was critical of the method of awarding contracts and suggested that any qualified provider should be able to have a contract.  In addition contracts that are not time limited should be replaced with one that were fixed term.

The government says that NHS dentistry will remain a commissioned service, but they intend to make the bidding process easier.

They will look at fixed term contracts and how they could introduce the concept of ‘any qualified provider’ into NHS dentistry. It shares the OFT’s view that patients’ ability to make a complaint about dental treatment should be made as simple as possible.

They are updating the patient leaflet to highlight the availability of information on the complaints procedure and the opportunity to give feedback on practices on NHS Choices. The OFT called for a code of practice to be developed covering sale of private dental plans as they had concerns that a minority of dentists are behaving inappropriately.

The government welcomed the agreement reached between the BDA and OFT to introduce a code of practice to avoid mis-selling or pressuring patients to take up sale of private dental plans.

They said there should be clear penalties for the minority of dentists who mislead patients. In particular, accepting children under NHS arrangements on condition of parents signing up to private payment plans is a breach of contract.


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