Will the new patient premium tackle the access crisis?

Will the new patient premium tackle the access crisis?

Experts from across the dental profession and government discuss their views on the new patient premium announced as part of the dental recovery plan.

The new patient premium, one of several new measures announced within the dental recovery plan, came into force on 1 March. This allows dentists to claim an additional payment for each new patient who hasn’t seen an NHS dentist in over two years. Depending on the level of treatment required, the premium is worth either £15 or £50 per patient.

The government said that this measure, along with the rest of the recovery plan, should deliver an additional 2.5 million appointments.

However the premium has faced some criticism, such as that it isn’t supported by any new funding. The British Dental Association (BDA) said it was ‘just recycling the same limited pot of money’.

Experts from the UK dental profession and government shared their thoughts.

Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation

While the new patient premium is suitable for check-ups and healthy mouths, it falls short for high-needs patients requiring complex restorative work. Many of these payments will struggle to cover the costs for patients needing multiple treatments, leaving dentists at a loss.

Implementation challenges also arise, with uncertainty on tracking accurate patient gaps. The intentions are good but until we have more details, this leaves too many unanswered questions.

Jason Wong, interim chief dental officer for England

Good oral health remains essential for good general health and now more patients will be able to access NHS dental services – thanks to the majority of dental practices across England being eligible to introduce new patient premiums.   

This is just one part of our recently announced package of measures to improve access while also better supporting dental teams across the country to provide high-quality care.

Louise Ansari, CEO of Healthwatch

The patient premium, if taken up by dentists, has the potential to be a game-changer for people who’ve struggled to access appointments in the past two years.

It could mean that children get their first ever check-up, while adults get treatment for problems that have long caused them pain or prevented them from eating, working or socialising.

It’s now important that the NHS makes it easy for people to find out which dentists will be offering new appointments based on the two-year criteria, so they only seek appointments from the relevant practices. NHS commissioners of dental services should also promote these new appointments to people who have struggled to access care in recent years, especially those on lower incomes, women, and some ethnic minority patients.

In the longer term, NHS dentistry needs fundamental reform to increase and attract more dentists, reduce the cost of dental treatment and improve access for everyone.

British Dental Association

The new patient premium is not new money and is simply recycling existing contract value, meaning any new patients seen as a result of this initiative will come at the expense of existing patients being able to get an appointment.

Victoria Atkins, health and social care secretary

I want to make access to dentistry faster, simpler and fairer for patients – particularly those who have not been able to see a dentist in the past two years.

This scheme is good for patients and good for dentists. It will see millions more appointments made available for those who need them, while also rewarding those dentists who are taking on new NHS patients.

It’s all part of our plan to put NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing for the long term and ensure that good oral health is a reality for everyone.

Amanda Doyle, NHS England national director for primary care and community services

This is an important next step in recovering and reforming NHS dentistry, and giving dentists a new patient payment will help to treat around a million additional patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in over two years.  

This forms part of a range of wider initiatives to improve access to local health services, including making it easier to get help from your GP practice and expanding the services community pharmacies offer.

What are your thoughts on the new patient premium? Contact [email protected].

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