Jargon-free contract update welcomed

The Department of Health has issued an online publication: Dental Contract Reform Programme Early Findings: Opportunity to give feedback.

It seeks to update readers on the progress in developing a new NHS dental contract reform.

On each page there is an opportunity to give feedback through SurveyMonkey. If you want to learn more and participate go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-dental-contract-reform-feedback-wanted

Many people, myself included, have complained that there is a dearth of information about the pilots for the new contract. To be fair, a host of information was published last October when the proposals for stage 2 piloting were announced together with early findings from the existing pilots.

These were long and detailed, however, and more for new contract anoraks (myself included) rather than busy general dental practitioners.

This is a different approach and which I applaud.

There are two versions a 16-page overview and a more detailed 31-page version. As well as giving an update on the pilots and the thinking behind the changes, it also tells readers about the new commissioning arrangements of NHS England which have been in operation since April this year.

It is mercifully free from jargon and the management-speak that so bedevils most of the output of the NHS these days. As well a description of the pilots so far, it deals with access, prevention, quality, the care pathway and team working. In addition there are links to other documents for further information.

The authors stress that it is not an evaluation or consultation. ‘The document has been written so you can print and read the 16-page overview or go into more detail online. It also gives you the opportunity to feedback to the development team.’

NHS England does not have a date for the new contract to be introduced. They say it is important that ‘we spend enough time developing it to get it right.’  They remind us that the exercise is a ‘complex undertaking’.

We are, however, promised a formal consultation exercise but this is not likely to be until 2014. Whether a new contract can be introduced before the general election in 2015 is therefore open to question.

The opportunity to comment at this stage will be welcomed by many, especially those whose memories go back to the secrecy that surrounded the 1990 new contract and the 2006 new, new contract.

Five years ago Professor Jimmy Steele toured the country to garner views on changes to NHS dentistry. I for one welcome the current feedback request as an extension of this openness.

Anyone can respond whether they are contract holders, associates of other members of the dental team. You are not asked who you are when you send back a comment. I expect some in wholly private practice may well respond, and maybe a patient or two. All in all a thoroughly worthwhile exercise, which should provide some useful feedback.



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