Headlines: August 13th, 2003

Radical changes in the way dentistry services are provided should give patients easier access to a modernized locally run NHS dentistry service. The changes are also aimed at improving the working lives of dentists and their teams in the NHS.Under the reform plan financial resources and commissioning of services will be devolved to local primary care trusts. This will allow the trusts to plan and develop local services to meet local needs either by providing primary dental care through local contracts or providing dental services themselves. By April 2005, trusts will take control of the 1.2 billion pound dental services budget from central government.

To support the change programme there is 10 million pound package of investment. An NHS team, backed by 9 million pounds, will support trusts where access is most challenging, providing advice and guidance on best practice in increasing access and modernizing dentistry locally to tackle long-standing bottlenecks where it is hard to find an NHS dentist. The remaining 1 million pounds will assist trusts, local dental committees and dentists in preparing for the change.

A simple and robust ‘base contract’ is being developed to which all existing NHS practices will be able to switch in April 2005. It will also provide a platform for trusts and dentists who wish to go further and faster towards change.