Integrated care boards (ICBs) should pay more per unit of dental activity (UDA) as a means to improve service provision, NHS England has advised.
In its new framework for ‘flexible’ dentistry commissioning (9 October), NHS England suggested ICBs either reduce the amount of activity needed to secure funding, or increase the contract value outright.
In practice, where a contract would have offered £225,000 for 10,000 UDAs, ICBs might consider offering the same amount of funding for 9,000 UDAs.
Likewise, an ICB might boost the amount of funding for 10,000 UDAs from £225,000 to £250,000 to the same effect.
NHS England said this would help support contractors that have lower indicative UDA values, following the introduction of a minimum UDA value in 2022.
It added that ICBs may also ‘seek further information from the contractor such as practice income and expenses including provider drawings to compare to local and national averages and to support them in determining whether there is a case to enter into a negotiation’.
But the British Dental Association’s chair, Eddie Crouch, said progress will ‘hinge on the largesse’ of ICBs and commissioning bodies.
He said: ‘NHS England’s new framework on flexible commissioning has worthy aspirations to make the NHS more attractive to dentists and improve patient care. But a failed, underfunded contract will act as a brake on progress.’
Mr Crouch added: ‘Progress will therefore hinge on the largesse of commissioners, so we are reaching out to every ICB to engage meaningfully with their Local Dental Committees on the challenges ahead. Given the depth of gaps in areas like urgent and domiciliary provision it is hard to see how real progress can be secured without real investment.
‘Those conversations may offer some scope for needed progress. However flexible commissioning is clearly no substitute for fundamental reform to a broken system.’
Earlier this week, Labour stated it would fund an extra 700,000 urgent dental appointments as part of its plan to tackle the ‘alarming decline of NHS dentistry’.