Fresh calls for NHS dental budget reform

NHS dental budgetThe NHS dental budget would be better spent elsewhere than on routine scaling and polishing of teeth.

That’s according to a new study, led by Newcastle University and the RAINDROP project.

RAINDROP (Resource Allocation In NHS Dentistry: Recognition Of Societal Preferences) has been created to find a better way of making decisions about how the NHS dental budget is spent.

‘Public money used for NHS dentistry is not being spent in the most effective way,’ Dr Chris Vernazza, from the School of Dental Sciences, said.

‘Our RAINDROP project shows much of the dental budget is spent on high street dentistry.

‘But significant amounts are also spent on specialist oral surgery and orthodontic services.

‘With very little spend on oral disease prevention.

‘We estimate the current NHS dentistry budget includes only a tiny provision for prevention of oral disease.

‘That’s less than 5%, and this is not enough.

‘We have recommended a specific set of services we would like to see new investment in.

‘And a set of services that should have funding reduced to allow this investment.’

‘Major changes’

NHS dentistry in England is focused on historical demands rather than the evolving needs of patients, the results show.

The study shows funds should be more focused on prevention of decay and gum disease.

More money should be made used to make services more accessible too.

‘Major changes, such as those we have recommended, are often difficult to implement at a national level,’ Dr Vernazza continued.

‘It may be that any changes need to be made as part of ongoing and emerging processes.

‘Such as dental contract reform, which is currently scheduled for roll out next year.

‘In addition, at regional level, opportunities may present which would allow implementation of parts of our recommendations.

‘The focus is on improvements for the whole population.

‘So individual patients may see different levels of benefit.

‘The sooner changes are made, the sooner the potential benefits can be realised.’

Reduction in orthodontics

The RAINDROP team has presented its findings to the Office of the Chief Dental Officer and others at NHS England.

Recommendations made by RAINDROP include:

  • Opening new NHS high street practices
  • Greater provision of dentistry in care homes
  • Allowing booking of NHS dental appointments from the NHS helpline
  • Having more oral health measures built into contracts for local authority services.

The trade-off would be a reduction in the amount of orthodontics the NHS provides, the team says.


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