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Welsh Government offer 5% GDS uplift for 2023-24

Following extensive negotiations over the autumn with the Primary Care Division of Welsh Government, we have achieved the best offer possible of a 5% uplift on the GDS contract value this financial year.

Contract holders received notification on Monday 18 December that payment owing will be made at the start of January.

It is the health minister’s position that all contractor groups - including GPs, optometrists, community pharmacists, and dentists – will only secure annual pay awards contingent upon reform policy aims.

These confidential negotiations were undertaken in consultation with Welsh General Dental Practice Committee members. Having debated various policy options that would not be onerous for practices, we settled for two quality improvement audits within the financial year. Quality audits are already a requirement for practices to undertake over a three-year cycle and contributing to the national antimicrobial audit this year seems appropriate.

We successfully negotiated a 1% reduction in delivery on targets to balance the Government’s policy requirement. We thus secured a reduction on target activity proportionate to the clinical time commitment required for the audit work.
The uplift is also contingent on each practice having one dentist be involved in an engagement event in 2024 which will continue the opportunity to debate contract reform progress and quality improvement.

We are acutely aware that 5% is significantly below dental inflation and we made the argument vociferously that such an award would leave dentists with a below inflation pay award, yet again. However, it is self-evident from the many communications by Welsh Government that there is insufficient funding to go above this level.

The BMA are holding out for a better offer on the GMS contract. Consequently, GPs are still waiting for any uplift on their contracts for 2023-24.

We could not put dental practices in a position of no uplift, given what we understand of the Government’s fiscal outlook. Earlier this year, we explained to members that Health Boards were predicted to have an overspend of £800,000,000 and that in total the Government was looking at a budget deficit just shy of one billion pounds. All Health Boards were required to reduce their overspend by substantial amounts. It was made very clear to us that if we did not come to an agreement on the uplift, then the money would be lost.

These negotiations of the uplift overlaid the GDS contract negotiations that commenced in September and are likely to continue for much of 2024.

Your representatives are working extremely hard under confidential conditions to secure a financial and contractual position that will provide a future for NHS dentistry, but clearly the challenges are immense. We will keep you informed as much as possible in the coming months.