Government changes dentists' NHS contract in drive to improve care

Thanks to feedback from people in Reading and across England, the government is taking action.
Dentist looking at a dental x-ray

NHS England (NHSE) has announced new steps to ensure better support for people with complex dental problems and information for those trying to find an NHS dentist. 

NHSE acted after hearing feedback from Healthwatch England, which has collected evidence from the public and local Healthwatch. This includes our own survey earlier this year showing no Reading dentists were taking on new NHS patients.

Changes will be made to the national contract that dentists asign up to for NHS work, to meet six main aims, such as ensuring patients are not paying privately for dental care that was previously available on the NHS.

The first stage of dental care reform

On 19 July 2022, NHS England announced it would:

  • Increase the amount dentists got paid when treating patients with complex needs, such as needing work done on three or more teeth
  • Require practices to update the national directory on www.nhs.net every months to clarify if they are taking on new NHS patients
  • Move resources from dental practices that are underperforming.

"Thousands of patients have spoken up about their struggles accessing an NHS dentist over the last few years,” said Chris McCann, director of campaigns, policy and insight at Healthwatch England.

“This announcement shows the power of their voices, with the NHS listening and taking action….Ultimately, we hope these combined measures will end long waiting times, the extended periods of pain many people suffer, and the extreme cases of DIY dentistry we have seen.”

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