Practice activity levels ‘completely unacceptable’, says CDO

NHS Boards set to impose 'improvement action plans' on selected practices

30 June, 2021 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Dentists have been accused of “completely unacceptable” levels of practice activity by Scotland’s Chief Dental Officer.

In a letter to all NHS registered practices, Tom Ferris, the CDO, said: “There are a number of practices that are currently operating below 20 per cent activity, some below 10 per cent and, unfortunately, we also have evidence of no claims activity. In the absence of clear mitigating circumstances, this is completely unacceptable to Ministers.”

The CDO was updating dental teams on how the Government intends to approach activity measurement for General Dental Services. He said all practices will soon receive a monthly notification of their activity levels.

“I can report that across the sector, the average activity level is approximately 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels,” he said. The measure is based on gross item of service over a three-month rolling average.

“While no measurement of activity is perfect,” he added, “this is the best measure we have to compare practice activity with an equivalent measure before the period of the pandemic.

“The data shows that activity levels continue to increase, and my expectation is that with the announcement of new ventilation funding, and a further increase of PPE supplies, they will continue to do so.

“Based on this general picture I am prepared then to suspend the proposed link between activity and tiered financial support for the large majority of practices. This does not prevent the possibility that such measures may generally be necessary at a later stage and may be introduced where further support is needed to maintain or improve patient access to NHS dental services.”

But the CDO said that practices operating at less than 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels will be contacted by their NHS Board. “You will appreciate that against the general situation across the sector, with an average activity much higher than 20 per cent, there is a need to ensure the emergency support funding is provided appropriately.

“Those practices with lower levels of activity than 20 per cent will be contacted by their NHS Board once the July/paid August data is available. Practices with no claims activity will be contacted with immediate effect.

“The aim is to identify barriers and where necessary introduce improvement action plans, which may be specific to each practice with the aim being to grow practice activity levels beyond the 20 per cent threshold, as the first step.

“In common with all practices, lower activity practices will not be placed under tiered financial support arrangement in the first instance, but this may become necessary where action plans are insufficient to improve practice level activity.”

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