MPs have criticised the lack of dentist representation on integrated care boards (ICBs), suggesting the new NHS systems should have greater involvement with dentists.
ICBs this month took responsibility for commissioning dentistry services, with seven ‘early adopter’ systems – including Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Greater Manchester and Sussex – taking up the mantle last year.
Speaking at a Health and Social Care Select Committee hearing this week (25 April), Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICB’s managing director, Jo York, explained that dentistry in their footprint is represented by GP, rather than a dentist.
Committee chair and Conservative MP Steve Brine said the absence of a dentist was ‘devastating’, suggesting that it indicated dentistry was ‘not really that important’ to the ICB.
ICBs are not currently required to appoint a dentist to their board under the Health and Care Act 2022, and are only asked to name one member working in primary care.
Ms York said: ‘The ICB has to be quite a small committee, made up of a certain number of people. If that gets too big, that is going to be challenging.’
She added: ‘We are also developing relationships with our local dentistry committee (LDC), to continue to work closely with providers to build those relationships. Whilst I can understand that it might be disappointing they were not on the board in this very early stage in this first year, there are lots of other ways that we can build those links and represent dentists.’
She added that the ICB intends to review its membership in July after its first active year to ensure it features appropriate representation, which could allow space for a dentist board member.
During the session, MPs also heard that ICBs should offer dentists contracts that allow them to develop portfolio careers to help improve retention.
Sara Hurley, chief dental officer at NHS England, said dentist associates are looking to ICBs for a opportunity to work in community dental services or in practice providing cosmetic services.
She said ICBs must take ‘the commissioning options they have and be able to think about the wider portfolio of oral services that need to be delivered’.
ICBs must ‘create an environment in which individuals feel that they are valued by the NHS in the work that they’re delivering, that they’re valued by the practices that they work for.’
She added: ‘That might be moving away from the self-employed contract: the terms and conditions of service to which are dictated by the practice, not by NHS England.’