Looking with fresh eyes
 

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Looking with fresh eyes

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Looking with fresh eyes

 

Looking with fresh eyes

Sometimes it helps to review a problem by leaving it alone for a time and then returning with new eyes. What was hidden is sometimes revealed, and distance lends a new perspective.

So, as I have just returned from a two-week break, does dentistry UK look any different? Are hidden patterns emerging? Well, yes and no.

I think the enormity of change is beginning to sink in. We know that comparatively few colleagues actually read their contracts and the supporting regulations (many had precious little time in which to do so). A few practices changing hands have found that the ‘new commissioning’ arrangements offered are, shall we say, less than generous and certainly not the original UDA value. In one case the PCT tried to persuade a vendor that he could not charge for goodwill (wrong, but a reduced contract value is certainly not going to enhance ‘saleability’).

The whole concept of becoming a ‘contracted provider’ of services will really touch many practices in ways they thought previously
inconceivable.

Some things have not changed, of course. A transcript of BBC TVs ‘Real Story’ – transmitted on 31 May and waiting on my desk – was a case in point. The headline was dental tourism, and it was interesting that it was not just price but service quality which enticed citizens abroad in some cases. However, the Minister of Health made almost as poor a fist of her contribution as she did at the BDA Conference.

She explained that Tony Blair’s famous statement in 1999 that everyone would have access to an NHS dentist in two years only referred to emergency treatment! Ah, now that’s another real non-success story of the new contract.

She also made several references to ‘telling the PCTs’ what to do, whilst admitting that there had been numerous glitches at the changeover date, presumably an indirect reference to the estimated 1 million patients left without NHS dentistry – some of whom eloquently contributed their stories to the programme.
So no change in the political mantra, a mantra I see repeated in the (further) directions given to PCTs on dealing with ‘misleading information about NHS Dental Services’. This is a document listing what action can be taken against dentists who have remained within the NHS but communicated with patients presumably without the PCT’s express agreement.

Potential actions include notification to practices and ultimately termination of their contract; formal meetings and a possible decision ‘not to commission services in the future’, or informal meetings and the publication of corrective press releases.

A few dentists may have sought to intentionally mislead, which cannot be condoned. But I have little doubt that many dentists, faced with an impossible amount of information and additionally feeling concerned or even incensed by the imposition of changes as they saw them, felt it professionally important to spell out to patients the shape of future services in terms unadulterated by political policy-speak.

So no, not much change. Back to the mountain of post and emails. Next: the subject of appeals.

 Posted on : Mon 3rd - Jul - 2006

 

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