Tendering process for NHS orthodontics is creating a 'race to the bottom', BDA claimsThe British Dental Association (BDA) is calling for an end to competitive tendering for NHS orthodontics.

Commissioning orthodontic services across the West Midlands was abandoned recently after six months of tendering for the services.

This has left practices across the West Midlands uncertain about the future of NHS orthodontics in the area.

‘This fiasco shows why it’s time to end this race to the bottom in our NHS,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.

‘Children could face going to the back of the queue for braces.

‘Or switching provider months or years into a course of treatment.

‘Meanwhile practitioners are already facing huge costs and stress in a bidding war to deliver NHS services at the cheapest price.’

‘Bidding wars’

The association claims these ‘bidding wars’ have created major delays as well as some legal challenges.

It believes the tendering process places huge stresses on dental practices encouraging a race to the bottom.

Successful bidders have handed back contracts in the NHS southern region due to a lack of staff, the BDA says.

‘Across England committed practitioners have contracts taken from them and handed to providers without the staff to deliver,’ Mr Armstrong continued.

‘All on the basis of a paper exercise rather than a serious examination of their capability.

‘The next government should not be applying a “Seaborne Freight” model to NHS services.

‘This sort of “competitive” tendering does nothing to improve quality and only jeopardises continuity of care.

‘NHS orthodontists should not have to squander precious clinical time on a failed process that has a material impact on patients.’

NHS orthodontics

The BDA is calling on all parties to stop tendering for further NHS orthodontics contracts.

It claims that some practices had spent up to £30,000, along with considerable time and money, tendering for these contracts.

NHS England abandoned the current tendering process in the West Midlands recently with the below email sent to bidders.

‘Dear bidder.

‘Further to our previous communications via the portal extending the standstill period for this procurement, I am writing to inform you that, after considering the process undertaken very carefully and after receiving legal advice, NHS England has taken the difficult decision to abandon this procurement process.

‘NHS England will therefore not award any contract under this Batch 2 process.

‘This encompasses lots CM1 to CM13 and lots WM1 to WM11.

‘Having reviewed this process in detail, NHS England has decided that it is unable to make an assured, unequivocal award.

‘NHS England will make any announcements concerning any future procurement process for the provision of these services in a manner that is accessible to all potential suppliers.

‘Thank you again for your time and effort in participating in this process.

‘Yours sincerely AGCSU’.