IoS payments to resume in phase four, but CDO promises consultation on long-term funding

31 July, 2020 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Item of Service payments, including the patient charge, are set to return in phase four of the remobilisation of dentistry in Scotland.

Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer, outlined his thinking about the move to phase four in a letter issued to NHS dentists on 30 July announcing the move to phase three, which will allow the use of aerosol-generating procedures in practices – for urgent care only – from 17 August.

“Assuming that we can increase the amount of AGP provision in practice, it is my intention, as part of staged measures within phase four to restart item of service payments, including the patient charge,” said Ferris. “We will of course continue to support NHS dental practice and would intend to adjust the NHS financial support measures accordingly.”

He added: “I am also very much aware that you may have concerns about the long-term viability of item of service within the phased route-map outlined for NHS dentistry and the current constraints this has placed on you.

“The Government needs to be able to respond to developments with COVID-19, sometimes very rapidly. However, a broad review is required outside of the route map to consider how NHS dental services will look in the longer term and developing funding and payment solutions that ensure sustainability of the NHS dental service.

“A vital aspect of this will be your views and there will be an opportunity for dentists to have their say as we move forward.” The CDO’s statement follows anger expressed by the British Dental Association over “inadequate” engagement with the profession.

Meanwhile, concerns remain over the issue of payment of open courses of treatment. COVID support payments were intended to cover the lockdown period during which practitioners were unable to provide care and receive an income in the normal way.

No support was given for the period prior to lockdown, when dental practices could still operate and earn income. However, some treatments that were begun pre-lockdown are due to be paid for after lockdown.

One dentist said: “The proposal that payment for treatments carried out prior to lockdown should be deducted from COVID support payments is ill-founded and unfair. It would leave practitioners unpaid for work that they carried out prior to lockdown.”

The BDA has lobbied the CDO and Joe Fitzpatrick, the Health Minister, on the issue.

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