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Dental contract reform across the UK

Find out about our work pushing for reform of the 2006 NHS dental contract in England and Wales, and updates from Northern Ireland on Health Service contracts. 

What is the issue in England and Wales?

The current dental contract implemented in England and Wales in 2006 which remunerates dentists purely on activity, is not fit for purpose. It has received criticism from dentists, two governments, a Health Select Committee and the Chief Dental Officers for England and Wales.

Many dentists feel that working to activity targets is like 'being on a treadmill' and wrongly puts the focus on meeting these targets, rather than on patient care. 

There is strong evidence that working under the contract is associated with stress and burnout among dentists.

The Steele Report (June 2009) affirmed that the profession's goal was to improve oral health and emphasised the need for better health outcomes through prevention. Given the general fall in levels of dental decay over the last fifty years, the report concluded that it did not make sense to have a contract that remunerates activity only.

We lobbied forcefully to ensure that dentists' concerns were heard, and we called on Government to reform the 2006 system.

Dental contract reform prototypes England

Read our FAQs on the progress of the prototypes and information on some of the key areas involved in the process.

Elements of a reformed contract were piloted in 2011 in England and the findings were published in 2014

The pilots were based on capitation and quality, with care being provided through a preventive care pathway. The approach was popular with patients and dentists but resulted in a decrease in access for patients in most of the pilot schemes.

In 2015 the Department of Health introduced the prototype remuneration model. A small but growing number of dental practices have, since 2015, been testing versions of a possible new system.

The Government currently has two blends of a single reformed contract on the table, both including activity targets.

There are 102 practices currently taking part in the Dental Prototype Agreement Scheme. They are testing new ways of providing NHS dental care with an increased emphasis on preventing future dental disease. 

The Department of Health and Social Care has published an evaluation of the first year of the prototypes.

New prototype practices have started in two waves; October 2018 and January 2019. 

Dental contract reform in Wales

In Wales, the Welsh Dental Pilot programme was developed to test alternative approaches to the delivery of NHS dental services in Wales and ran from 2011-2015. 

It aimed to focus on widening access; improving quality; and incentivising prevention. Two of the eight pilots moved on to a trial of a more advanced 'prototype' of this new contract in 2016, based on 85 per cent capitation/15 per cent quality. 

At the end of the pilot programme the majority of the pilot practices reverted back to the existing contract and most report that this has been detrimental to teams and patients.

The two 'prototype' practices remain on the new contract and will not return to using UDAs.

From January 2018, 23 dental practices in Wales are testing a new pilot scheme, which includes giving 10 per cent of UDAs over to oral health needs assessment data collection.

As of April 2019, there are 92 practices participating.

Dental contract reform in Northern Ireland - CDS

The CDS contract was finally approved and implemented in 2019 by the Department of Health, after years of lobbying by the BDA.

The pay circular and associated materials confirming the implementation of the CDS contract were circulated to practitioners by the Department of Health on 29 March 2019.

At the end of April 2019, all serving Community Dental Practitioners received their pay backdated to April 2015. Those who have retired or have transferred within the dental services received their back pay by the end of October 2019.


What do we want?

We believe patients deserve better than a watered-down version of the current contract: activity targets (UDAs) are bad for both patients and dentists. 

Through the General Dental Practice Committee, we continue to push for a contract that puts prevention first. If activity targets are necessary, then they must be related to prevention and treatment that is necessary. 

We are concerned about the implementation of any revised contract and we want assurances that practices can retain viable business models.

We will continue to press the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and its local commissioners to drive forward meaningful contract reform and to fully support those participant practices.

More information

Information about the system can also be found on the NHSBSA website.

If you have any questions on NHS dental contract reform, please get in touch with our policy team.


Keep up-to-date

Read more about our work on dental contract reform in our blogs.

If you'd like to be kept informed about developments on dental contract reform, make sure your details are up-to-date on your MyBDA record and tick the box under 'contact preferences' to get latest news email updates.