Access to NHS dental services widened in new reforms

DENTAL therapists will be able to accept NHS patients for the first time as part of a raft of new reforms designed to improve patient access in England.

NHS dentists will be paid more for complex cases, while high-performing practices will be able to increase their activity by a further 10 per cent to see as many patients as possible.

The changes are part of an overhaul of the NHS England dental contract – its first major review in 16 years. It is hoped the reforms will help the profession recover following the impact of the pandemic and to clear treatment backlogs.

Among the changes are plans to pay NHS dentists more for complex cases, such as people who need three or more fillings, and for a greater focus on prevention.

Dental therapists will also be able to accept patients for NHS treatments, providing fillings, sealants and preventative care for adults and children, which NHS England hopes will free up dentists’ time for urgent and complex cases.

Chief Dental Officer for England Sara Hurley said the reforms would help teams carry out even more treatments, adding: “The NHS is determined to overhaul dental provision, with a focus on increasing access to necessary dental care and supporting prevention – [these] reforms are the first step on that journey.”

Abhi Pal, President of the College of General Dentistry, described the reforms as “significant improvements”, in particular the removal of “unnecessary restrictions on the roles played by members of the wider dental team”.

He added that the College also welcomed “the direction of more resource to the treatment of patients with greater needs, and the potential for practices to deliver additional care so that all funding allocated to dentistry is used for its intended purpose.”

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