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Published on 8th February 2017 by lauram

The current NHS dental contract was implemented in England in 2006. The contracts involve working towards activity targets known as units of dental activity (UDAs). The current contract has a focus on rewarding dentists for meeting government targets for treatments. This reflects the issues faced by the UK when the contracts were drawn up as many patients were struggling to see an NHS dentist.

Why are Dentists unhappy with the current contract?  

Dentists would like patients to be at the centre of their contracts rather than government targets. They also feel that they are rushed with appointments so would like the flexibility to spend longer with patients when it is necessary. Additionally, the contracts currently make it difficult for dentists to treat patients with complex needs. This means that these patients are often subject to long specialist waiting lists or struggle to access the care that they need.

How would dentists like to see the contracts change?

The British Dental Association are lobbying for a contract that puts patients and prevention at the centre. They believe that UDAs aren’t benefiting dentists or patients and if activity targets are a requirement, they should be related to preventative dentistry where possible. Having a contract that rewards dentists for improvements in oral health rather than UDA is hoped to improve oral health in England.

What is the future of the NHS dental contract?

Currently, two prototypes are being trialled through participating dental practices in England. The new contract prototypes reward dentists both for treatment and continuing care. It is thought that the existing contract will be replaced around 2018/19 although the next contract is not finalised.

What kind of questions might be asked about the NHS dental contracts?

  • How has NHS dentistry changed over the last ten years?
  • Do you believe that NHS dentistry should have a focus on preventative care?
  • What are some of the limitations of NHS dentistry currently and how would you overcome these?

How should I approach an NHS dental contract question?

  • Show that you have an understanding on NHS dentistry and the current way in which a dentist’s salary is determined
  • Be mindful of both the advantages and limitations of the current system
  • Give a realistic answer in terms of NHS funding and staffing levels
  • Link your answer back to how a change in the contract could impact patient care

Words: Joelle

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