Hygienists are the future of NHS dentistry

Lord Howe
Prototypes were first mentioned at the British Dental Association conference in Manchester last April by Earl Howe

Breaking news yesterday was the announcement of the long awaited proposals for dental contract prototypes, released by the Department of Health.

Prototypes here are defined as refined pilots by the Department of Health. I see them as a time filler, while the government waits for the right time to proceed.

Prototypes were first mentioned at the British Dental Association conference in Manchester last April by health minister, Earl Howe.

But before you scream ‘what does this mean for therapists and hygienists’, I’ll speculate as soon as I have explained the changes.

This contract reform journey is one with a clinical pathway approach, which has been refined during the piloting process and will form the basis of the two prototypes. And there is an expectation that one of the prototypes will shape the contract.

Some 10% of remuneration will come from a Dental Quality and Outcomes Framework (DQOF). The rest will come from payment for treatment split into three blended prototypes. Capitation and activity make up the blend.

Band 1A for prevention, and will be useful for hygienists/therapists.

Capitation will be incorporated, as well as prevention education and three varieties of paying for activity.

Prevention is at the heart of this contract. Activity will continue to be measured in UDAs. Which means the work of therapists and hygienists can be measured clearly and easily. This should be a blessing and reduce the potential persons to take advantage of the contract confusion and reduce fees paid.

Indeed a new treatment band (1A) is dedicated to preventative only care. This is super news for therapists and hygienists. There is real potential here with the structure being created for direct access contracts to be offered and won in the future.

The first prototypes will be set up this year and, if they are successful, then more may be added in 2017/18 and 2018/19, which is the ‘earliest date at which a reformed contract could become the prevalent approach’.

I see this as great news for therapists and hygienists who can start planning now for an exciting business opportunity in the next couple of years.

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