A time for action

When I worked at the BDA (British Dental Association) and helped draft press releases, we had one golden rule: ‘Never welcome anything that the Government did.’

We did so once in my early days and unleashed a torrent of invective from members.

‘Ministers were evil and we should be sticking up for the interests of members, not sucking up in the hopes of an OBE,’ was the general drift.

So I was a little surprised last week to read that the BDA ‘welcomed’ the government’s willingness to engage on contact reform.

Although it went on to say that the Department of Health ‘now needs to meet words with action.

I hope it doesn’t get John Milne into trouble for saying this, because he is quite right.

It was five years ago that Professor Steele produced his report, and it was December 2010 when the Government said that pilots were coming.

I sympathise with the minister, Earl Howe’s wish to proceed cautiously and ‘get it right’, but John Milne is right when he says: 'There must be a commitment to a move away from the flawed activity targets that have blighted the profession since their introduction under the 2006 contract.'

In its response to the Government’s consultation exercise, which is as near as we will get to a vote on the reforms, the BDA says that the department ‘must now focus its attention on how remuneration will work in practice.’

This has always been the Achilles heel of the pilots.

The emphasis on building a prevention-based contract is laudable, but it is working under the old remunerations system.

The BDA has advocated that as high a percentage of remuneration as possible should be on capitation, rather than activity.

But it is only when the next wave of ‘prototype’ pilots come in, operating under a new remuneration system, that we can pass judgement on them.

The BDA also wants dental reference officers to be reintroduced to ‘monitor clinical effectiveness’.

Let’s hope this happens, if for no other reason than they could ensure that complaints against dentists are addressed locally, rather than being passed on to the General Dental Council.

The BDA finally wants ‘extra resources (ie more money) to be made available for the delivery of quality and outcome measures’.

This echoes a motion at the LDC Conference, but with a cash-strapped NHS, it has, I suggest, little or no chance of being included in a final package.

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