Eddie Crouch

Eddie will be a forthright, outspoken blogger for GDPUK, he will keep GDPUK readers well informed with the important aspects of changes facing the profession.
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A Call to Action or The Last Post?

A Call to Action or The Last Post?

Following similar campaigns for medicine and pharmacy, (no I hadn't noticed either), last week NHS England launched the dental call. It was trumpeted with documents with the admirable aim of improving dental care and oral health, but the large caveat is this must be done with a reducing budget and a £30 billion black hole in the NHS funding stream. One wonders if loosing dentistry from the NHS might infill some of the cavity.

 

We are told that the NHS dental budget is £3.4 billion per year and that private dentistry makes up £2.3 billion in provision, although some may dispute that. £653 million from patient charges is included in the total budget and is an important part of the contribution. In view of what the government is prepared to pay on other issues, one wonders why it is needed at all, but of course patient charges are a controlling factor of the demand.

 

Much is made of the Dental Local Professional Networks that have recently been established, but no mention of the chronic underfunding of this, which might explain why so few of us will have noticed their existence to date.

 

The NHS belongs to the people is the strap line, but not sure the way politicians interfere with it, make any of us feel like the owners.

 

The document attempts to describe many strengths in the current system and improve access. At a recent GDPC meeting I asked Elizabeth Lynam , head of dentistry at the DoH would there be funding for more patients to register if a reformed registration and capitation model attracted more than the 56% currently visiting practices in a 24 month period, no was the answer.

 

So if access is to increase, that too must happen within the existing budget. Not so much a call to action as a call for charity from the profession.

 

As a committed LDC official, I am disappointed that there is not a single reference to local representative committees, nor a mention of them being stakeholders. Perhaps with the manipulation of levy collection ongoing by NHS England maybe they won't be for long anyway?

 

We are asked to respond to the questions by the 16th May 2014 and that our answers will be independently analysed, we are not told by who,( I am lead to believe it may be an American institution, so much for tendering) but it will make a change for independent analysis when we are deprived that within the pilot programme. A strategic framework for commissioning will be published along with a report.

 

There is pride on the excellent data on disease and activity NHS England hold but those that witnessed the destruction of the Dental Practice Board will believe this information far inferior to what was previously known.

 

Again there is a plan to best use tax payer’s money and develop a workforce that is appropriate for the future, a bit rich after what graduates are facing in the lottery of FD placement. But world class has been replaced by exemplar commissioner so perhaps reality is dawning at Whitehall. I wonder where the "tools" to enable a consistent care pathway are being kept.

 

Remarkably the document admits they need to know how to measure excellence and despite telling us how good the data is they have, they admit they lack data to benchmark performance nationally. I know what I believe of these two versions on data.

 

In its section on health inequalities it talks about a "seldom heard" group, I got quite excited when I thought it might be the many critics of DoH and NHS England but it turns out to be patients facing barriers to accessing care.

 

There is a clear message they we carry out our care at times convenient to us, and that patients want extended hours after work and at weekends. Not sure what evidence base there is for this, but the direction of travel is clear.

 

Much is made of the OFT report of 2012 despite massive criticism from the profession and the BDA. So not much notice taken there then, and of course they trumpet this call to action process is being supported by the BDA. Damned if you do and the same if you don't .

 

There are also indicators to the shape of general practice of the future, they want to move away from working in isolation and support larger teams in the interest of better care, and develop special interest in primary care. The end of single handed practice and tiered delivery of care for those with the badge to do it is just a review away perhaps?

 

It is followed by a list of questions deliberately moulded to either restrict answers or get the ones they want, but none the less I would encourage all to let them have the "action" by going to

 

www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/qual-clin-lead/calltoaction/dental-call-to-action/

 

Whilst I understand enthusiasm for this is not great and we are being herded along with the medics, we should not under estimate the importance or messages contained.

 

 

Eddie Crouch

 

 

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