§ Ms Rosie Winterton
Dentists providing general dental services under the national health service are remunerated through fees set out in the Statement of Dental Remuneration. The fees are uprated annually in the light of recommendations from the Doctors and Dentists Remuneration Body. For treatments not listed on the Statement of Dental Remuneration and for courses of treatment where total gross lees are above a specified limit set out in regulations dentists are required to obtain prior approval from the Dental Practice Board.
The board continuously monitors treatments provided under the General Dental Service (GDS) to identify outlying prescribing patterns. The dental reference service of the Dental Practice Board undertakes random patient examinations of proposed treatment plans and completed treatments provided under the GDS to ensure that these meet patients clinical needs and are provided to appropriate standards. When providing general dental services a dentist's terms of service require that he or she "shall not provide care and treatment in excess of that which is necessary to secure and maintain oral health". A breach of these terms of service can result in a financial withholding.
Under the provisions of the Health and Social Care Bill currently before Parliament, Primary Care Trusts will commission dental services from April 2005 and will be given the resources to do so. Dentists who contract with a PCT will have a secure income in return for making a longer-term commitment to the NHS.
In response to the Office of Fair Trading report on private dentistry the Government has published an action plan. This is available at www.dti.gov.uk/topics2/dentists.htm. The plan commits the Government to support the development of evidence based clinical care pathways in the NHS to aid dental professionals in improving clinical and cost effective treatment planning of appropriate patient care. The Department of Health will explore with the General Dental Council how clinical pathways can inform its 'Maintaining Standards' guidance and thus be extended to private dentistry.