Indeed, we recently attended the first meeting for the Stakeholder Engagement Workstream (SEW) group.
Here are some key takeaways:
- All practices with NHS contracts will be part of the contract reform programme, which will be effective from 1 April 2022
- The restart of the GDS reform process from 1 April 2022 has no direct bearing on the GDS contract conditions from 1 April 2022
- The GDS regulations for FY2022-23 will remain as current – there will be no return to UDAs
- We have asked that the exact GDS contract expectations from 1 April 2022 be communicated by Welsh Government at the earliest opportunity.
- Our expectation is that GDS reform will take at least a couple of years to get to completion. In that time the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee remains the formal negotiating body, and we will consult with practices as the programme of GDS reform unfolds.
We discussed how effectively the reform process will be able to engage with practices when the pandemic continues to impact dental teams. We referenced our mental health surveys which show the knock-on effects of the pandemic on dentists' mental health and resilience. Dentists having to isolate due to COVID-19 also continue to affect how well practices are currently coping. The Welsh Government must be realistic in their expectations of practices as the reform process is geared up and we will continue to reflect the reality of dentistry in this forum.
There was also a discussion about patient access, which is of particular concern to the Local Health Boards. We made the case that access cannot improve significantly until patient throughput goes up and for that to happen, the SOP needs to change significantly. Some Health Boards with centralised waiting lists are struggling to induce practices to take on more patients, despite offering additional remuneration.
The ongoing impacts of the pandemic have created a situation in dentistry that is still far from normal and at this stage cannot provide a solid benchmark for reform. Clearly, dealing with these degrees of uncertainty will make the GDS reform process challenging for all concerned. However, we will continue to be a strong voice for dentists and dentistry in this process. Together we are stronger, and it's now more important than ever.