Dentists need to ‘connect locally’

Dentists were urged to become involved in local development plans and influence the local commissioning agenda at this year’s British Dental Conference and Exhibition.

That was the message delegates heard at the event in Harrogate, which attracted 3,376 people from across the UK.

In a wide-ranging conference address, the chair of the British Dental Association’s Executive Board, Dr Susie Sanderson, spoke about the vital role that local dental committees (LDCs) have to play in this process.

Dr Sanderson said: ‘The BDA is firmly committed to increasing our activity in this area. By working positively with LDCs and PCTs and local health boards, we must push for creative and pragmatic alternatives to the current contract model.

‘Through the 10 newly established regional groups of LDCs, the BDA will offer support and training in key areas – relationship development, negotiation, commissioning, contract support and development of oral health needs analysis.

‘Knowledge of local service provision will be crucial and we can help with that. And together with a pack of essential documents, this will reinforce the support we’re already giving to LDC secretaries. During the last year, LDC secretaries have received an increasing amount of regular information from us, and there’s more to come.’

Dr Sanderson also outlined the BDA’s new initiatives to support dentists professionally in both private and NHS practice, and to expand its regional bases. This includes a flagship Masterclass education programme currently under development.

In addition, the BDA is creating a new network of regional coordinators and hubs to strengthen and support local activity to provide more support for branches and sections, greater visibility within dental schools and to enable closer working with LDCs and local commissioning groups.

Dr Sanderson also highlighted the BDA’s concern over UDAs as the sole measure of how dentists perform under the new system.

She said: ‘We want new indicators that look at factors such as oral health, access, quality and patient experience. These need to be discussed and agreed with the profession, and then enshrined in regulations, not merely left to the discretion of primary care trusts.

‘I know I’m not the only dentist at this conference today who sees this sole reliance on UDAs, to be the most damaging and ill-conceived aspect of the new contract. It has created a reductive, target-driven and an unfair system.

‘My message to the government today is that we want a cast iron commitment that UDAs will be removed as the sole method of managing NHS dentistry. We need to get rid of this target-driven approach – and all the perverse incentives that go with it.’

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