Increase in dentist appointments – gov.scot

Easing of restrictions see thousands more patients seen.

NHS dental examinations are expected to have doubled between April and June compared with the first three months of 2022, with about 700,000 examinations taking place as practices continued to recover from the pandemic.

The sharp increase in appointments follows the relaxation of some infection prevention and control (IPC) measures brought in to protect patients and staff at the height of the pandemic.

Interim payment arrangements have been in place since April to support practices see more patients while infection, prevention and control measures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic remained in place.

Writing to the sector today, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirms that NHS dentists will continue to receive an additional  30% on fee claims with a further review by October.

Mr Yousaf said:

“We have been greatly encouraged by the substantial improvements made by dentists in increasing access to NHS dentistry in the last three months. More than 232,000 examination appointments took place in April, compared with a monthly average of 125,000 for the first three months of the year – an increase of 85% in one month. 

“We are on track for around 700,000 examination appointments for the three months to the end of June, almost double that in the first three months of this year. By continuing these interim arrangements we are supporting the progress in tackling the backlog in routine care and ensuring the sector is able to quickly return to more normal levels of activity.

“Considerable progress has been made in NHS dental services and oral health improvements – progress that was interrupted by the unique challenges of the pandemic. It is our ambition to regather that momentum and ensure we have a NHS dental service that is unequalled in the world today.”

Chief Dental Officer Tom Ferris said:

“Dentistry teams faced really incredible challenges in preventing the spread of coronavirus, that really reduced the number of patients that could see. So it is wonderful to see that so many more people have been able to see their dentist.

“Speaking to colleagues I know that teams are working really hard to accommodate patients and provide appointments, opening early or later to fit in with patients busy lives. We will continue to work with our partners to provide the NHS dentistry sector the support it needs to recover from the significant challenges it has faced.”

Background

The ‘multiplier’ payment was put in place by the Scottish Government to support the continued recovery of the NHS dental sector. It is in addition to the value of actual of item of service claims to mitigate the cost of IPC measures, lower levels of dental activity and budgetary requirements.

The text of the letter to dentists issued on 28 June 2022.

We are writing to provide you with details about the immediate next steps for the multiplier and wider engagement programme with sector on reform. 

Next Steps for the Multiplier

Since the start of April we have been greatly encouraged to see a significant increase in both the volume of examination appointments and levels of care being delivered closer to pre-pandemic levels.  The combination of both a de-escalation of infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures and continued additional support through the interim multiplier arrangements have provided a solid basis for the sector to move forward.

In reviewing the multiplier we have looked at a range of factors, including the remaining IPC constraints, overall levels of activity, and affordability.  Taking these factors together coupled with the requirement to maintain the momentum we have achieved over the first three months of the interim multiplier arrangement, the intention is from the July/paid August schedule to set the multiplier at 1.3 – which means that contractor fee claims will attract an additional 30% on top of actual activity.  The 30% enhancement of the General Dental Practice Allowance will also be retained for this period. 

These arrangements will be reviewed in advance of the October/paid November schedule, with the intention to write out to the profession in advance. 

Reform Programme for NHS Dentistry/ Next Steps

We have previously intimated that as the recovery programme develops and patient access to services expands, we would turn to the issue of reform.  We are very much aware there is a strong appetite from the sector for a reform programme, and want to meet that expectation with a programme that is focused and inclusive.

Humza Yousaf

ends

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