New dental contract ‘prioritises children’s oral health’

A NEW dental contract that aims to improve children’s oral health is being piloted in England.

Dentists taking part in the trial will be paid for the number of patients they care for and the health results, rather than the number of courses of treatment performed. The old contract was criticised for encouraging clinicians to concentrate on activity with no specific rewards for high quality care.

The government hopes to introduce a new contract across the country that will improve the oral health of NHS patients – particularly children. The trials are taking place at 68 practices and will look at ways of increasing patient access and promoting preventative dental treatments like fluoride varnish.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “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 is a member of the National Steering 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 of the pilots has been welcomed by the British Dental Association who described the current contract, introduced in 2006, as “bad for patients”.

Dr John Milne, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee said: “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.”