Monday, January 10, 2005

Second delay for dentistry reforms

James Meikle, health correspondent
Tuesday January 11, 2005
The Guardian

The biggest dentistry changes in NHS history have been delayed for six months because local managers are not ready for the shakeup, the government conceded yesterday.

John Reid, the health secretary, said more time was needed to ensure the effectiveness of the reforms, designed to help end the dearth of state-funded dentists in some parts of England.

Ministers are negotiating new arrangements with the profession which would replace the "drill and fill" system of payments for treatment by dentists, who are not NHS employees, with one that rewards practices for seeing more patients and giving more disease prevention advice.

The changes, originally promised for this April, had already been delayed until October, but now they will not take full effect until April 2006. The government has also given no indication of how charges to patients not on benefit might change to ensure consistency of funding for services. This will now be revealed in the summer.

But Mr Reid insisted that dentists could continue to enter agreements with their local primary care trusts before the present centralised national system under which dentists are contracted to do NHS work is abolished. They should also replace the six-month check with three-monthly to 18-monthly checks depending on individuals' oral hygiene.

About 3,500 of the 19,000 dentists doing full- or part-time NHS work in England have already changed the way they work, and the government has pinned much faith in the new system, combined with an influx of dentists from abroad to end the shortages of NHS dentists.

The delay was welcomed by the British Dental Association, which has argued against a "big bang" approach to the changes. It would allow the profession "breathing space" to resolve issues with ministers.

Soooo are they going to a capitated system or what?

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