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Revised Arrangements to Reward Seeing More NHS Patients

Revised payment arrangements for NHS dentists will be linked more closely to the number of patients they see, under changes being introduced in April.

The revised arrangements will help ensure patients are able to access NHS services, while dentists continue to be supported as they operate under necessary coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.  The revised payments replace the emergency top-up arrangements that were introduced to protect the sector from the immediate impact of the pandemic.

Separately, an advisory group will be established to consider long-term reform of the sector and future structure of NHS dentistry.

– Graeme

I know from casework that some constituents in Angus having been struggling to access NHS dental care recently, and have been in touch with both NHS Tayside and the Scottish Government on this matter.

These revised arrangements to seek to address such problems here and across Scotland are welcome, and I hope they will provide Angus residents with reassurance on the commitment to recovering dental capacity.

This Scottish Government has acted responsibly in the wake of COVID disruption, to support patients and dentists alike through this period of recovery.

The 9% increase in the budget for NHS dental services in 2022-23 is a important investment, and a significant step on Scotland’s journey towards the removal of NHS dental charging within this Parliament.

– Public Health Minister, Maree Todd 

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of dental care and our focus must now be on recovery and ensuring we equip the sector to work through the significant dental backlog.

From April, the new system will support dentists to see more patients while avoiding a cliff-edge for practices and ensuring a soft transition during what is still a constrained period for dental teams.

Importantly, this means dentists could earn more than they do now through COVID-19 payment support.

We’re delivering record investment in dentistry – with a 9% increase in the budget for NHS dental services in 2022-23 – and there has been a 39% increase in the number of high-street dentists in Scotland between 2007 and 2021. Last year there were 55.6 dentists per 100,000 of the population providing NHS care in Scotland compared to 39.9 in England.

We are absolutely committed to improving oral health, including the removal of NHS dental charges during the lifetime of this Parliament.

– Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris

We know how important it is that NHS dental teams get the right support to carry on providing the services patients need.  We’re confident that these revised arrangements are a step in the right direction to improving access, by linking financial support to seeing patients.  We have been sharing our proposals with the British Dental Association from before Christmas, listening to the concerns of the sector and the need to avoid the cliff-edge when the emergency support payments come to an end.

These revised arrangements are in addition to £50 million of financial support for dentists during the pandemic, along with £35 million of PPE. It also comes on top of new and increased fees for dentists for a range of treatments including enhanced appointments from 1 Feb 2022.

Current infection prevention and control measures mean that dentists are required to wear significant amounts of PPE, clean surgeries thoroughly between appointments, and allow for fallow time between appointments to ventilate rooms.

The Scottish Government has been in negotiations with the BDA throughout winter regarding interim financial support.

The new arrangements will see:

  • withdrawal of emergency financial support arrangements – which were paid to dentists regardless of their rates of activity – from 1 April 2022, to be replaced with interim funding arrangements
  • interim arrangements to pay more than emergency financial support to dentists who are performing above average activity, and the same for those performing at average activity levels
  • establishment of an advisory group to the Chief Dental Officer, to consider reform of the sector and future structure of the current NHS dental model

The revised payments come on top of support introduced in February for a range of items detailed below, at a potential investment of £20 million per year, and an extension of free PPE for the sector funded by more than £12 million per year.

The basic examination fee for adults of £9.95 will be replaced by an enhanced fee of £14.85. The period between claims for the enhanced examination fee has also been reduced to five months from 23 months.

Dentists will also have the opportunity to claim the enhanced examination fee for children (i.e. the same as for adults), and will also be able to claim a fee for small film radiographs for children. Larger radiographs taken for general treatment remain as before. Orthodontics is unchanged.

Childsmile eligibility will be extended and existing fee codes streamlined. Dentists can claim Childsmile for children and young people up to age 17 (previously up to age 5), and fluoride varnish application between 2 and 12 (previously between 2 and 5). This will address the increase in oral health inequalities that may have arisen in children and young people during the pandemic