Lockdown: an opportunity taken?

10 February, 2021 / editorial
 Will Peakin  

On 11 March last year, Scottish Dental magazine sat down with Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer, to hear from him an outline of the work being carried out to create a ‘new model of care’ for NHS adult dentistry in Scotland; a model intended to fundamentally shift the focus from treatment of disease to prevention.

A little over a week later, the UK went into lockdown, as COVID-19 took hold. In those early days, many in the profession wondered whether they would still have a job or a business coming out of lockdown – let alone what kind of NHS care they might be contracted to provide in years to come.

While NHS dentistry has since been remobilised, the capacity for treating patients remains severely limited. The profession, like society in general, has become more reconciled to being in this for the long haul. Alongside this acceptance, it is wondering exactly what kind of care it can provide long-term, and how – as a group of healthcare providers – it will make ends meet.

Last month (28 January), the Scottish Government published its Budget for 2021-22. It included a commitment to “provide £431 million for general dental services [in 2021-22], helping to support their recovery, accelerate the reform programme for NHS dental services and take forward a new model of preventive oral health care for NHS patients”.

The General Dental Service budget has been increased by 0.6 per cent, or £2.4 million. A spokesperson for the British Dental Association (BDA) said: “This will go some way towards supporting the service in this tumultuous time; we are concerned that it does not go far enough.”

The Scottish Dental Practice Committee (SDPC) has a working group collating views on a funding model to replace the Statement of Dental Remuneration; a “workable solution to be presented to Scottish Government”.

The BDA and SDPC have been told that they will be invited to take part in discussions with the Scottish Government to consider a new funding model. Where this leaves the fledgling Scottish Dental Association (SDA) remains to be seen. It is conducting a survey via the Scottish Dental Network, a Facebook-based group.

Work on the new model of care comprises three streams: looking at the framework for an ‘oral health risk assessment and care pathway’, creating a ‘treatment toolbox’, and funding. Early adopter practices were envisaged to ‘go live’ from this autumn.

It has been said that lockdown has presented people with an opportunity to make changes that everyday life had somehow prevented; the coming months will reveal how those good intentions have fared.

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