Bill revisions tread sensible line, say dentists

The government’s response to the Future Forum report on the Health and Social Care Bill appears to tread a sensible line but requires more detailed analysis, the BDA has said.

The response does not deviate from BDA-supported plans for dental commissioning, while appearing to address some of the areas of the Bill about which the BDA has expressed concerns.

The government’s response restates its intention for the NHS Commissioning Board, the body that will take charge of commissioning dental care, to take on its full responsibilities from April 2013, as originally envisaged. The BDA supports this transfer of responsibility.

Amendments are, though, proposed in a number of areas in which the BDA has expressed anxieties or sought further detail.

The importance of professional input, something which the BDA’s lobbying activities have emphasised, is reflected in a proposed strengthening of the duty of commissioners to secure professional advice.

The BDA’s call for effective local input into the planning of care is also reflected in the amendments.

The role of Monitor, and the lack of clarity about whether the organisation will license dental providers, has not been resolved by the amendments, although it has now been made clear that Monitor’s role is being reframed.

A specific commitment has also been given that Monitor will not open up competition by requiring providers to allow access to its facilities to another provider, a measure the BDA has campaigned against because of its possible implications for practice ownership.

BDA calls for clarity about the place and role of dental public health are also partly addressed by the amendments, which stress the importance of public health input and promise that Public Health England will be established as an executive agency of the Department of Health rather than within it.

The BDA believes the body should be given NHS agency status.

Another key area of concern for the BDA, arrangements for dental education, is also addressed by today’s announcement, which guarantees a safe transition for the system during which deaneries will continue to oversee training of junior doctors and dentists.

Dr Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA’s executive board, said: ‘While there’s more analysis to be done in order to understand properly the implications of today’s announcement, we are pleased to see that the central thrust of these reforms for dentistry, the move to national commissioning, has not been abandoned.

‘The BDA supports this transition. We are also pleased to see that some of the areas about which we have expressed concern, for example, professional input, the place of dental public health, dental education and the role of Monitor, have been reconsidered.

‘We will look carefully at these amendments, seek clarity on their implications and continue to lobby to ensure that the revised bill delivers new arrangements for dentistry that work for dentists and patients alike.’

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