Steele pilots now at full throttle
 

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Steele pilots now at full throttle

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Steele pilots now at full throttle

 

Steele pilots now at full throttle

Dozens of NHS dental practices will shortly begin trialling new ways to deliver services under Government plans to start implementing recommendations from the Steele review.

The pilot sites will seek to improve patient access and test new ways of measuring quality from April, the Department of Health (DoH) announced.

It said primary care trusts and practices had ‘responded well' to a call for pilot sites by the Steele implementation board, and almost 30 sites around the country would soon begin trials.

One of the sites is City and Hackney, in London, where a new ‘blended contract' is being trialled under which dentists are directly rewarded for the number of patients seen, the level of treatment each patient receives and the quality of that care. Professor Jimmy Steele, who led the Independent Review of NHS Dental Services, made more than 30 recommendations to help improve oral health, increase access and ensure high quality dental care for patients in his final report published in June last year.

It followed a series of criticisms of the Government's 2006 reforms for failing to do enough to increase patient access. The reforms, which introduced local decommissioning and payment based on the unit of dental activity, prompted many dentists to leave the NHS.

The DoH said different methods of delivering Steele's recommendations would be piloted ‘thoroughly' over the next two years to ensure they met the needs of the NHS and patients. But it added that the flexibility of the current dental contract meant that if the local NHS wanted to adopt changes sooner they were able to do so.

Health minister Ann Keen said: ‘We know that access to NHS dentists is improving – more people visited a dentist in the last two years than at any period in the last decade. This is great news for patients who are now seeing the benefits of over £2 billion of investment in improving NHS dental services.

‘As well as continuing to build on this success and drive access even higher, we need to look at the quality as well of quantity of treatment being carried out by the NHS. Professor Jimmy Steele made a number of recommendations for how we can do this and it's fantastic that the local NHS is so keen to try out new ways of improving the dental care it delivers.'

Chief dental officer, Barry Cockcroft, said: ‘Prevention and quality are two of the most important principles of today's NHS and the sites piloting Professor Steele's recommendations will be at the forefront of delivering high quality services built around patients' needs.'

The Steele implementation board, which includes Professor Steele and Dr Cockcroft, is still inviting expressions of interest for sites to be part of the next wave of pilots which will start in September.

The next wave will trial a wider range of options to cover all the areas of the Steele review, including increasing access to NHS dentists, introducing patient registration, measuring quality as well as quantity of treatment, and encouraging dentists to carry out more preventive work.

The DoH said almost 1,200 more dentists were working in the NHS that two years ago, while the number of patients seeing an NHS dentist was now at its highest level in the past decade.

Dr John Milne, chairman of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘The BDA has called for reform to deliver an NHS dental system that works better for patients and dentists alike, and we support the process of piloting the conclusions of Professor Steele's review.

‘The two keys to the success of these pilots are meaningful engagement with the profession and proper evaluation of their results. Engagement so far has been good and must continue. These pilots must now be given the time they need to properly assess the proposed changes and allow reflection on the results.'

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of consumer group Which?, said: ‘We are pleased to see the Steele recommendations being put into practice. Full piloting with patients is essential to ensure that any new system of NHS dental services is fit for purpose.'


 Posted on : Mon 15th - Mar - 2010

 

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