The new NHS general dental services contract is to be rolled out from April 2020, Dentistry magazine has learned.
The timetable for introducing the ‘reformed’ contract was delivered at a briefing from the Department of Health and NHS England earlier this month.
Speaking at BDIA Showcase, Eric Rooney, said: ‘We are working towards this timetable, and it is our intention to roll out the contract reform, but it is not definite and depends on the ability to amend the regulations (get legislation through parliament) to be able to proceed.
‘There are also corporate decisions to be made in the Department of Health too.’
Regulations underpinning the current system of prototype contracts are due to run out on 31 March 2020.
The news has been met with scepticism from some areas given that new contract pilots were first introduced in 2011.
The move to ‘prototype’ contracts came in 2016, with 76 practices currently taking part in the scheme.
These prototypes are expected to shape much of the detail of the new contract.
The prototypes are testing new ways of providing NHS dental care to see what works best for all stakeholders.
The Office of the Chief Dental Officer say there are two prototype blends.
Both include a capitation element (a payment per patient registered and regularly attending).
In ‘Blend A’ prototypes, this capitation element covers Band 1 care only – any treatment required under Bands 2 and 3 is subject to patient charges.
‘Blend B’ prototypes extend the capitation element to cover Band 1 and Band 2 care.
Practices are expected to deliver all necessary care to each patient on the list within their overall contract value.
Findings after the first year of prototyping saw progress on the key issues of improving oral health, providing appropriate care and and maintaining or increasing access, says NHS England.
It is widely accepted that providing dental services on the prototypes is preferred by dental practices.
However, many prototype practices have had to invest in additional clinical staff to make it work.
A new wave of prototypes was also announced at the same time.
The aim is to sign up 50 more practices by March 2019.
The previous prototypes – waves one, two and three – have successfully delivered more than 96% of their contracted activity.
However, the system’s critics argue that these are self-selected groups of people, making them more motivated to make the new system work.
Other criticisms – from evaluations carried out within the prototypes themselves – include practices asking for higher levels of capitation, as some patients are more demanding on the practice than others.