An offer is now on the table for NHS dental practices in Wales. Practices can either opt for a new volumetric contract, or the UDA-only option for 2022-23.
As you consider your options, here's what you need to know:
There is now an offer on the table
Practices have been awaiting the NHS GDS volumetrics offer from the Welsh Government for the next financial year and we have been working assiduously on behalf of the profession to get the best offer possible on the table.
The process has been constrained by a very narrow consultation window imposed by the Welsh Government, which has cut the conversations short. Nevertheless, we and the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, have worked around the clock to negotiate a workable solution for you.
There remain some untested issues that will need resolving with the new offer and WGDPC members will be raising these in various forums over the next few weeks. However, we have negotiated a position with the Welsh Government where the inherent contractual risks of the draft offer have been successfully mitigated - as much as time allowed - in particular the business risks around new patient numbers are now shifted away from practices.
Your choice: New contract or UDAs-only
The new contract for 2022-23 will be a variation of the 2006 contract with new volumetrics. It will require practices to formally agree to the conditions for a full 12 months. This new contract is an effort to learn from the changes made during the pandemic and move away from the failing UDA contract once and for all. Although UDAs still feature, I do believe they are a truly nominal target in the new contract. This has the potential to allow dentists to step off the treatment treadmill and start managing patients in the best way.
The new contract has potential to allow dentists to step off the treatment treadmill.
The alternative will be to revert to the UDA-only contract and the good news is we have also negotiated an abatement on numbers of UDAs to reflect the ongoing IPC restrictions. We have contested any requirement to complete ACORNs within the UDA-only option as that would represent a variation to the standard contract, but this issue remains to be fully resolved.
Weighing it all up
NHS dentistry in Wales has benefited from timely support by the Welsh Government throughout the pandemic; and yet despite that, the profession has never experienced so much stress, and our businesses, NHS and private, never put at so much risk, as in the last two years.
As your elected representatives and often as practice owners ourselves, WGDPC members know only too well how much pressure practices are under from all sides; to keep our businesses viable and services compliant; to be able to serve our patient populations, while taking care of our staff.
Dealing with constant change and challenging working conditions during the two years of the pandemic has taken its toll, and now we are being asked to consider more changes. We think that for many practices the offer will be worth the risk, but this will depend on each practice's risk profile and risk appetite. We don't see this as a one-size-fits-all solution.
Taking on a new variation to the NHS contract will require time to consider. There will be an open evening next week on Wednesday 9 March 18:00 - 20:00 provided by Public Health Wales with an opportunity to pose questions to the speakers.
We're here for you
BDA advice services are gearing up to help members navigate the options that dentists in Wales will be facing very shortly. Whether to take on a new variation of the contract and the inherent unknowns with the new volumetrics; to revert to a UDA-only contract; or consider other options outside the NHS.
BDA advice services are gearing up to help members navigate the options that dentists in Wales will be facing very shortly.
Whichever path practice owners will be considering, the BDA will be able to help you weigh up the balance of risks within each of these scenarios to help you make the right decision for your practice.
Associates will benefit from the new associate's agreement which we are drafting in anticipation of the new contract volumetrics offer. This will be available to members shortly.
We have supported members throughout the pandemic and as we emerge from the last two years, we are here for you to help plan your next steps - together we are stronger.