NHS Dental Contract Pilot Scheme To Be Expanded

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The government has confirmed that the NHS dental contract pilot project will be expanded. From April 2013 25 additional practices across the UK will take part in the project, which is designed to aid the development of a new dental contract.

Currently, 70 practices are participating in the pilot project, which was launched to identify problems with the existing contract and find solutions and ways to make the NHS dental care system more effective and efficient. The current contract, which was introduced by Labour in 2006, has been widely criticised by patients and dentists and the government is working to replace it with a system that prioritises good oral health and patient care.

The extra pilot sites will be used to “fine tune” changes to the contract. The new contract proposes to pay dentists according to the number of patients they care for and the outcome of treatment, rather than the number of courses of treatment, which is the current payment system. Many health experts have complained that the existing system has produced a ‘drill and fill’ culture, which encourages dentists to perform as many procedures as possible, rather than rewarding their time, skill and care.

The new system uses a ‘care pathway’, which provides dentists with guidance about treating individual patients according to their oral health needs and health status; it will underpin the contract and ensure that the focus is on high quality patient care.

Early findings from the pilot project show that dentists are focusing on preventative care, which will reduce the amount of money spent on dental care in the future and help more people to enjoy better oral health.

Dr Barry Cockcroft, Chief Dental Officer for England, said that he was “delighted” that the pilot scheme had received such a positive reception from dentists and added that “a lot of excellent work has been carried out so far.”

Dr Cockcroft said that the fine-tuning stage was important to ensure that the new contract is “fully tested and fit for future use.”

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