Government asks to see accounts
The Scottish Government has asked NHS practices to share their accounts to help it better understand the pressures practices face
The Scottish Government has asked NHS dentists to take part in an ‘open books’ exercise, “to understand in more detail the pressures practices are under”. The initiative has come from Humza Yousaf, the Government’s Health Secretary, and it will take place next spring. Officials have begun writing to practices inviting them to share their accounts.
Mr Yousef said it “will allow the Scottish Government to understand the impact of business costs on NHS practice, help inform future pay awards, and allow us to provide comprehensive evidence to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) next year. In this way, the government will better take account of any financial difficulties practices face”.
A spokesperson for the British Dental Association (BDA) said: “Apart from being commercially intrusive, this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Given there are very specific issues around items of service prices and costs of lab bills we recommend the government goes directly to dental labs for a list of charges and accept these figures as evidence. This direct approach would be far more efficient and accurate.”
News of the exercise came alongside an update on the ‘multiplier’ arrangement and other financial support that had been in place during and after the pandemic. The intention had been to end the arrangement – reducing the multiplier from 1.3 to 1.0 – from 1 October.
“However,” said Mr Yousaf, “within the past six months, an unprecedented cost of living crisis has hit our economy. I appreciate that the challenging economic outlook – with prevailing high inflation and rising energy costs – has increased the cost of business. Therefore, while the additional support provided by the Scottish Government has helped to preserve the sector through the pandemic, further action is needed.”
Writing to NHS dentists, he said: “In recognition of this, and of the hard work you have undertaken and continue to undertake for NHS dentistry, I am pleased to offer the sector a temporary recovery period ‘bridging’ payment to run to April 2023. This payment will continue to be made on the same basis as the multiplier and will be set at a rate of 1.2 for the first three months, and 1.1 for the remaining three months of this six-month period.”
In response, the BDA said: “We have not ceased reminding officials that without an adequate interim funding package several key treatments including extractions, and anything – like dentures – that requires laboratory work, risk being delivered at a financial loss.
“We are clear this cannot presage a return to ‘business as usual’ from April 2023. In the months ahead efforts must be made to deliver needed change to the broken high volume/low margin model NHS dentistry is based on. Without needed reform, this package will simply delay an inevitable exodus of dentists from the NHS that is already evident in other UK nations.”