Dentistry contract changes creating over 100,000 extra appointments, say Welsh government
The number of additional dental appointments provided this year has reached 109,000, according to the latest Welsh Government data.
Changes made to NHS dentistry contracts in Wales, offered to practices since last April, include a requirement for practices to see new patients.
They also include a move away from six-monthly check-ups, with dentists instead being asked to create a personal care plan with people and advise them how often they need to come in.
The Welsh government said this would allow those people who need more frequent care to be seen more regularly than the new once-a-year recall.
Children and young people under-18 will continue to have six-monthly check-ups.
An estimated 112,000 new NHS patient appointments will be possible this financial year due to the changes, the Welsh government claims.
The changes were introduced in response to the unprecedented demand created for dentists after the coronavirus pandemic.
However the Chief Dental Officer for Wales, Andrew Dickinson, has warned that missed appointments are impacting on people who need dental treatment the most.
He has called on patients to avoid missing appointments where possible or notify their practice in advance when they are unable to attend.
According to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), 9.4% of all NHS scheduled appointments last year were lost due to patient non-attendance, the equivalent of 3.5 hours of clinical time each week for every practice.
Andrew Dickenson added: “We’ve made great progress since our reforms to NHS dental contract.
“78% of practices have by now signed up to the contract variation, which is really bearing fruit in terms of new patient appointments.
“But missed appointments continue to be a real issue, adding up to the equivalent in clinical time of losing 20 full time dentists a year.
“It’s understandable that things come up, meaning people can’t always keep appointments. But my key message is – please “cancel, don’t break” appointments – contact your practice as soon as you know you can’t attend.
“That way practices can make time for other patients, enabling even more people to get speedier access to dental treatment.”
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, added: “We want everyone in Wales to be able to access NHS dental care, if they want it.
“From this year, we’re providing an additional £2 million a year to support increasing access to dental services throughout Wales.
“I’m really pleased that we’ve already broken the 100,000 extra appointments barrier this year, which shows that our reforms, made in partnership with the industry, are resulting in clear positive outcomes for patients.”
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