Dental services for all – gov.scot

Revised provisions will reward dentists for seeing more NHS patients.

Revised payment arrangements for NHS dentists will be more closely linked to the number of patients they see under changes introduced in April.

The revised arrangements will help ensure patients can access NHS services while dentists continue to be supported as they operate under necessary coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The revised payments replace additional emergency provisions that were introduced to protect the sector from the immediate impact of the pandemic.

In addition, an advisory group will be set up to consider long-term sector reform and the future structure of NHS dentistry.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of dental care and now we need to focus on recovery and ensuring we equip the sector to deal with the large dental backlog.

“Starting in April, the new system will help dentists see more patients while avoiding a precipice for practices and ensuring a smooth transition during what is still a constrained time for dental teams.

Importantly, it means dentists could earn more than they currently earn from COVID-19 payment assistance.

“We are making a record investment in dentistry – with a 9% increase in the NHS dental services budget in 2022-23 – and there has been a 39% increase in the number of street dentists in Scotland between 2007 and 2021 Last year, 55.6 dentists per 100,000 people provided NHS care in Scotland, compared to 39.9 in England.

“We are absolutely committed to improving oral health, including the abolition of NHS dental fees for the duration of this Parliament.”

Chief Dental Officer Tom Ferris said: “We know how important it is that NHS dental teams receive the right support to continue to provide the services patients need. We are convinced that these revised arrangements are a step in the right direction to improve access, by linking financial support to the patient visit. We have been sharing our proposals with the British Dental Association since before Christmas, listening to industry concerns and the need to avoid the precipice when emergency support payments come to an end.

“These revised arrangements come on top of £50m in financial support for dentists during the pandemic, as well as £35m in PPE. This is also in addition to new, higher fees for dentists for a range of treatments, including improved appointments from February 1, 2022.”

context

Current infection prevention and control measures mean dentists are required to wear significant amounts of PPE, thoroughly clean surgeries between appointments, and allow fallow time between appointments to ventilate rooms.

The Scottish Government negotiated with the BDA throughout the winter regarding interim financial support.

The new arrangements will see:

  • withdrawal of emergency financial support schemes – which were paid to dentists regardless of their activity rate – as of April 1, 2022 to be replaced by temporary funding schemes
  • interim arrangements to pay more than emergency financial support to dentists performing above average activity, and the same for those operating at average levels of activity
  • establishment of an advisory group to the Chief Dental Officer to consider sector reform and the future structure of the current NHS dental model

The revised payments come on top of support introduced in February for a range of items detailed below, a potential investment of £20m a year, and an extension of free PPE for the sector funded by more £12 million a year.

Examination fees increased for adult patients

  • The basic adult examination fee of £9.95 will be replaced by an increased fee of £14.85. The period between applications for the enhanced examination fee has also been reduced to five months, from 23 months

New increased examination and X-ray fees for children

  • Dentists will be able to claim the increased examination fees for children (i.e. the same as for adults) and will also be able to claim fees for small film x-rays for children. Larger X-rays taken for general treatment remain as before. Orthodontics is unchanged

Extending Childsmile eligibility and streamlining existing fee codes

  • Dentists can claim Childsmile for children and young people up to 17 years old (previously up to five years old) and fluoride varnish application between 2 and 12 years old (previously between 2 and 5 years old). This will address the increase in oral health inequities that may have arisen among children and young people during the pandemic.

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