National lockdown – calls for government to abandon NHS dental targets

The dental profession is urging the government to rethink new NHS contract targets in the face of the new national lockdownThe dental profession is urging the government to rethink new NHS contract targets in the face of the new national lockdown. 

The British Dental Association (BDA) has written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, in a plea for NHS contract targets to be abandoned.

This comes as Boris Johnson announces England is to enter its third national lockdown from tomorrow (6 January).

From 1 January 2021, practices need to hit 45% of their pre-pandemic NHS activity targets. As a result, those that do will be said to have delivered their full contractual requirements.

Widespread non-attendance

Under new rules, CDO Sara Hurley has confirmed dental services will remain open.

But Dave Cottam, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, branded the targets ‘unrealistic’ in the current circumstances.

‘Patient non-attendance will become commonplace. As will dentists and their teams being unable to work due to infection or self-isolation,’ he writes.

‘It cannot be argued with any credibility that these situations represent “exceptional circumstances”. All practices are now facing these conditions as the norm.

‘During our negotiations with NHS England, we made clear these targets would force practices to prioritise routine check-ups for the “worried-well” over a time-consuming urgent backlog in order to hit arbitrary activity measures.

‘That problem remains. But now these unrealistic targets will be harder to achieve than ever.’

Plea for clarity

He also calls for urgent changes as dental services ‘face decimation’, risking future patient care.

‘On a related note we are conscious that failure to provide clarity on the key worker status of dental team members means we are already receiving reports from dentists and staff unable to secure childcare,’ he writes.

‘I hope your team will rectify this at speed.’

Data shows that more than 383,000 people in the UK tested positive for COVID-19 over the last seven days.

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