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​Uncertainty on targets another slap in the face for NHS dentists

The British Dental Association has accused the authorities of treating NHS dentists across England with disrespect following a failure to provide clarity on the NHS contractual arrangements set to commence on Friday 1 October 2021.

Funding for NHS high street dentists has been subject to imposed activity targets from 1 January 2021, which obliged contract holders to hit a threshold of 45% of pre-COVID activity, or face financial penalties. This target rose to 60% from 1 April. At every step dentists have been given last minute notification to prepare for radical changes in their working model.

This approach has been widely criticised as setting perverse incentives to prioritise routine over urgent care – or ‘volume over need’ – with a large proportion of practices still struggling to hit targets in the face of COVID restrictions.

The BDA has underlined this approach was wholly at odds with comments from the Prime Minister made just last week, when he stressed “we want the NHS to be a better place for the dental profession.” The union has continued to press for a fair deal in ongoing negotiations, warning that further increases would put untenable pressure on practices and drive dedicated clinicians out of the NHS.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said:

“With less than a week to go, NHS practices have no clue about what’s expected of them in the next six months.

“The PM said he wanted the NHS to be a 'better place' for dentists. What we’re seeing instead is a level of disrespect afforded to no other part of our health service.

“We have been urging reasonable notice repeatedly in our discussions with NHS England but once again we’re in the same place.

“At the bare minimum, this profession deserves clarity. These 11th hour announcements are another slap in the face for every dedicated NHS dentist in England. This only adds to the uncertainty already jeopardizing the care provided to millions of patients.”