Today the Department of Health is publishing Professor Jimmy Steele’s report on the future of NHS dental services. The report sets out a clear vision for the future of NHS dental services which are accessible to all, provided to a high quality and focused on prevention and improving oral health.
Professor Steele was asked by my predecessor to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of NHS dental services in December 2008, and to provide advice on some of the specific issues raised in the Health Select Committee’s report on NHS dental services published last July.
Professor Steele acknowledges the current problems that some people have in accessing NHS dental services and agrees that the NHS should continue to address specific capacity shortages through the current dental access programme.
Further, Professor Steele notes specific concerns that patients have about NHS dentistry, and makes recommendations on improving the provision of information to patients to help them find an NHS dentist, as well as improving support for NHS dentists to provide high quality care for more patients, as dentists themselves wish to do.
The report highlights many of the complexities in NHS dentistry and therefore recommends that all proposed changes to dentists’ contracts should be piloted thoroughly, and that the recommended changes to the pathway of the dental patient through care should be evaluated carefully. It also recommends much more effective collection and use of information to help monitor and develop the quality and effectiveness of the care patients receive. The Government accept the recommendations in principle, subject to working through the detail of their financial implications. The report recognises the more difficult future fiscal environment, and rightly puts an emphasis on piloting, cost containment and more efficient ways of working. With that in mind, we will begin work immediately to set up the pilots and develop plans for further implementation, working closely with the profession as we do so.
I wish to put on record my thanks to Professor Steele and his team for an excellent report that will provide a way forward to improve NHS dentistry over the next decade.
This report has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.