The government today confirmed its commitment to improving the oral health of NHS patients, particularly children, by announcing that 68 dental practices will trial new changes to the current dental contract.
The trials will look at ways of increasing patient access and promoting preventative dental treatments like fluoride varnish, which helps to prevent tooth decay in children.
Dentists have consistently said, and the government agrees, that the current contract leaves dentists concentrating on activity with no specific rewards for high quality care or for delivering prevention.
The pilot practices will test changes that will see dentists paid for the number of patients they care for and the health results, rather than the number of courses of treatment dentists perform.
The commitment of the government is to introduce a new dental contract that focuses on improving the quality of care patients receive and is part of the wider plans to modernise the NHS.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:
“It is vital that patients receive high quality dental care and we are committed to promoting good oral health and preventing dental decay, especially in children.
“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.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. For general media queries or to request an interview, please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5221.
2. The pilot sites were selected from a large number of dental practices that applied. The pilots started on Thursday 1st September 2011. A list of the pilots is available from the Department of Health press office.
3. The publication, NHS Dental Contract: Proposals for Pilots, is available on the Department of Health website.
4. The current dental contract was introduced on 1st April 2006.
5. Statistics released last month by the NHS Information Centre showed that 26,000 fewer children were able to see a dentist in the year up to June 2011, compared to the year up to March 2006.