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NHS GDS contractual requirements for 2022-23

Practice owners and associates in Wales will be wondering what the Welsh Government is intending for the GDS volume metrics for the new financial year.

Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, Russell Gidney, has been having preliminary discussions with government officials and will be discussing the draft proposals this Thursday with Deputy Chief Dental Officer, Warren Tolley, and consulting with the committee about these latest developments. Following feedback from the BDA, we believe these proposals will be communicated widely.

The context of the proposed volumetrics is important to note. We understand the emergency legislation that has governed NHS dentistry contractual arrangements for the last two years will not be applicable in the new financial year. Instead, the proposals will come under a normal variation of the existing contract governed by The National Health Service (General Dental Services Contracts) (Wales) Regulations 2006 and as such must be legally compliant.

However, the Welsh Government Dental Branch also wants to build on the learning from the Contract Reform Project initiated in 2017 and that was used for the GDS pandemic recovery measures. These include the use of the annual ACORN and application of fluoride varnish for certain population groups. Where practices don't want to take up the Welsh Government offer, they will be entitled to revert to a wholly UDA-based contract and the details of this option will also be clarified.

The focus of NHS dentistry for the last two years has been prioritising access for those in greatest need, given the severely reduced patient throughput necessitated by stringent infection control measures. As conditions start to ease it will be important to balance the continuing need for urgent access against those patients on practice lists who have not had an examination in the last two to three years, or longer. However, we are very unclear how this might work in practice and will be seeking fuller details of the business modelling.

Indications are that the proposals for the new financial year will be conducted as an opportunity to restart GDS programme reform using action learning principles. As such we will be seeking details on how practices can be protected from the potential risks of taking on and testing such terms of their contract, versus the risks of reverting to a UDA-based contract. One such mitigation could be around the conditions for clawback.

Meanwhile, discussions around GDS programme reform will continue and your representatives will continue to ensure the voices of dentists are heard in these forums, ahead of future formal new contract negotiations between Welsh Government and WGDPC.