Contract review on back burner
 

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Contract review on back burner

 

Contract review on back burner

The government has rejected calls for a full-scale review of NHS dental charges.

Responding to a Commons Health Select Committee recommendation, ministers said holding a review would be ‘premature’ since the new contract and charges, introduced in April, were still ‘bedding down’.

In its report on NHS charges, published in July, the Health Committee said there were fears the new system would discourage preventative treatment and lead to a fall in the number of patients receiving NHS care.

The report said: ‘Concerns have been raised that the new dental contract may lead to some serious problems for dentists and for patients in the future.’ It recommended that the Department of Health (DoH) carry out a wide-ranging review in April 2007 – a year after the contract was introduced.

The committee said the review should report on the effects of the new contract on patient access and care, NHS dentist numbers, recruitment, salaries, workload, the number of dentists who signed the new contract ‘in dispute’ and how these disputes were resolved.
Earlier this month, Andrew Murrison, the Conservative Party’s spokesman on dentistry, joined calls for an urgent review.
Dr Murrison, MP for Westbury, told Dentistry: ‘Early indications are that the new dental contract has not achieved the aim of improving access to NHS dentistry.’

But, in its formal response to the Health Committee, the government flatly dismissed calls for a review. ‘The government and NHS have only recently introduced major reforms to the system of NHS dental charges.
‘These charges were based on the unanimous recommendations of a working group chaired by Harry Cayton, National Director for Patients and the Public, which brought together representatives of patient and consumer groups, dentists and other stakeholders. Whilst the new system is bedding down, we consider that it would be premature to consider any significant further changes.’

The government said its Implementation Review Group, made up of representatives from the industry, was monitoring the impact of its dental reforms – including the new charging system. In response to the committee’s call for the abolition of charges for dental check-ups to be considered, the government said it was not persuaded that would constitute ‘an appropriate priority’ for the use of NHS funds.
Scrapping the charges would not only divert ‘significant resources’ – estimated at £170m – from other NHS commitments, it also risked encouraging healthy patients to make ‘unnecessarily frequent’ visits to their dentists.
As a concession to the committee, the government agreed to investigate any implications for dental services in a review of prescription charges it has pledged to complete by next summer.


By Andy Tate, parliamentary correspondent

 Posted on : Thu 9th - Nov - 2006

 

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