Revised arrangements will reward dentists for seeing more NHS patients.
Revised payment arrangements for NHS dentists will be linked more closely to the number of patients they see under changes being introduced in April.
The revised arrangements will help ensure patients are able to access NHS services while dentists continue to be supported as they operate under necessary coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The revised payments replace the emergency top-up arrangements that were introduced to protect the sector from the immediate impact of the pandemic.
Separately, an advisory group will be established to consider long term reform of the sector and future structure of NHS dentistry.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd recently said:
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of dental care and our focus must now be on recovery and ensuring we equip the sector to work through the significant dental backlog.
From April, the new system will support dentists to see more patients while avoiding a cliff-edge for practices and ensuring a soft transition during what is still a constrained period for dental teams.
Importantly, this means dentists could earn more than they do now through COVID-19 payment support.
We're delivering record investment in dentistry - with a 9% increase in the budget for NHS dental services in 2022-23 - and there has been a 39% increase in the number of high-street dentists in Scotland between 2007 and 2021. Last year there were 55.6 dentists per 100,000 of the population providing NHS care in Scotland compared to 39.9 in England.
We are absolutely committed to improving oral health, including the removal of NHS dental charges during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Chief Dental Officer Tom Ferris recently said:
We know how important it is that NHS dental teams get the right support to carry on providing the services patients need. We're confident that these revised arrangements are a step in the right direction to improving access, by linking financial support to seeing patients. We have been sharing our proposals with the British Dental Association from before Christmas, listening to the concerns of the sector and the need to avoid the cliff-edge when the emergency support payments come to an end.
These revised arrangements are in addition to 50 million of financial support for dentists during the pandemic, along with 35 million of PPE. It also comes on top of new and increased fees for dentists for a range of treatments including enhanced appointments from 1 Feb 2022.
Current infection prevention and control measures mean that dentists are required to wear significant amounts of PPE, clean surgeries thoroughly between appointments, and allow for fallow time between appointments to ventilate rooms.
The Scottish Government has been in negotiations with the BDA throughout winter regarding interim financial support.
The new arrangements will see:
- withdrawal of emergency financial support arrangements - which were paid to dentists regardless of their rates of activity - from 1 April 2022 to be replaced with interim funding arrangements
- interim arrangements to pay more than emergency financial support to dentists who are performing above average activity, and the same for those performing at average activity levels
- establishment of an advisory group to the Chief Dental Officer to consider reform of the sector and future structure of the current NHS dental model
The revised payments come on top of support introduced in February for a range of items detailed below, at a potential investment of 20 million per year, and an extension of free PPE for the sector funded by more than 12 million per year.
Enhanced examination fees for adult patients
- The basic examination fee for adults of 9.95 will be replaced by an enhanced fee of 14.85. The period between claims for the enhanced examination fee has also been reduced to five months from 23 months
New enhanced examination and radiograph fees for children
- Dentists will have the opportunity to claim the enhanced examination fee for children (i.e., the same as for adults) and will also be able to claim a fee for small film radiographs for children. Larger radiographs taken for general treatment remain as before. Orthodontics is unchanged
Extension of Childsmile eligibility and streamlining of existing fee codes
- Dentists can claim Childsmile for children and young people up to age 17 (previously up to age five), and fluoride varnish application between two and 12 (previously between two and five). This will address the increase in oral health inequalities that may have arisen in children and young people during the pandemic