Appetite for contract reform lost

Last week I received a message from a GDPC (General Dental Practice Committee) member following their meeting.

The gist of it was that there was a general feeling that the Department of Health has lost its appetite for reform and are slowing things up.

Now my contacts with the department are far less than those at the BDA (British Dental Association) enjoys, but this opinion is at variance with the impression I received from the minister last month and on which I reported for Dentistry.

Speaking at the BDA conference in April, Lord Howe said he remained totally committed to contract reform and as keen as ever to move forward, adding that he did not wish dentists to mistake his ‘caution for hesitancy’.

He also announced an ‘engagement exercise’ and that consultation documents would be prepared to ‘inform those participating’.

Once the consultation was over in the autumn, then one or more ‘prototype’ contracts would be published and dentists invited to bid to start these in April 2015.

In the run-up to any election, the civil service observes a period of ‘purdah’, when they refrain from starting any policy initiatives.

Now that the European Parliament elections are over, the way is open to issue the papers and start the consultation process.

The next week or so should show whether the Department of Health and NHS England has really lost its appetite for reform.

The alternative is to condemn the profession to working even longer under a system that all are agreed is totally unsatisfactory.

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