OFT critical of failure to enforce NHS dentists’ contractual obligations
The Office of Fair Trading has published its report into the UK dentistry market of £5.73bn per year of which approximately 58% is NHS and 42% private dentistry.
Some of the OFT’s key concerns include:
- insufficient or inaccurate information given to patients including failing to display NHS charges as required, not providing a written treatment plan and patients wrongly being told they could not have certain treatment on the NHS
- greater competition required through time-limited dental contracts and changes in procurement
- inadequate complaints and redress processes
The report identifies a number of actionable breaches of the current NHS dental contracting framework.
It indicates such practices are widespread with 40% of patients who opted for a mix of private and NHS treatment saying they did so having been told incorrectly the treatment could not be provided as an NHS service. It also estimates that over half a million patients a year were denied necessary NHS dental treatment.
The OFT urges NHS commissioning bodies to “be far more proactive in identifying and taking robust, timely and regular enforcement action against dental practices that provide inaccurate information to patients regarding their entitlement to certain NHS dental treatments”. The OFT was “surprised and disappointed by the low levels of formal enforcement activity especially when PCTs have evidence of this misconduct by dentists”.
The solution - how Capsticks can help
Is it that simple? No, but we can help make it easier. We know that issues around obtaining proper consent for private and NHS treatment options can be a complex and ‘grey’ area. Good evidence is essential to take decisive action.
We have extensive experience in primary care dental contract management and in depth knowledge of the regulatory framework governing NHS dentistry.
We can assist in:
- pursuing effective contract management, including through breach and remedial notices so that all your contractors comply with their obligations to display NHS charges and provide accurate information on treatment options in the patient’s best interests
- building a strong case for contract termination, where required, to minimise the risk of successful challenge
- taking action under the Performers List Regulations
- issuing guidance by PCTs for contractors in relation to what information should be given to patients as a minimum, at what stage, and how should contractors manage access to NHS dentistry when nearing year end and UDA targets
Guidance issued by PCTs to contractors at cluster level can strengthen the position to enforce compliance with the required standards and will ensure a consistent and robust approach now and in the handover to the Commissioning Board Authority.
For more information on these or any related issues, please contact Duncan Gordon-Smith or James Reynolds.