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COVID-19: Dental practices under pressure to meet 60% of their pre-COVID patient numbers

  • From 1 April 2021, NHS dental targets have increased to 60%, for orthodontic practices targets have raised to 80%. This threshold is set to last until 1 October 2021.

    By Jasjit Kaur

The majority of dental practices rely on funding from the NHS to stay open and take on NHS patients. If dentists are forced back into busy timetables to meet patient numbers pre-COVID social distancing will be difficult which could put patient and staff safety at risk.

One in 10 clinics failing to meet 45% of pre-COVID activity

The target put in place for dental practices is four times the level set by the Northern Ireland government, the Scottish government has delayed introducing a target until June and the Welsh government has not introduced any activity targets at all which has left many dentists in England in a challenging position.

Currently, practices delivering less than 36% of their pre-COVID patient numbers are subject to financial penalties with one in 10 clinics already failing to meet 45% of their pre-COVID business. NHS England has estimated that around 11% of practices are on track to fall below the 36% delivery cliff edge and will have to pay back their NHS funding, which could threaten their ability to remain open.

“Targets have no place in the pandemic”

The British Dental Association has criticised the new targets imposed on dental practices, arguing that it undermines the “sustainability of the sector”. Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee has stated ‘Dentists in England have been put in an invidious position.

‘Practices are already working unsustainably to try and meet perverse targets, and now hundreds face an existential threat.

‘While the vaccine programme is making real headway, the restrictions we work to remain unchanged. Targets have no place during a pandemic. Doubling down will only leave the future of NHS services in doubt.’

Following the easing of government restrictions and increased target set for dental practices to meet pre-COVID activity, many dental practices have shifted towards routine rather than urgent care.

Many practices across England will see an influx of patients which will enable those who have experienced delays get the treatment they so sorely need. If you have received dental treatment which you believe may be negligent we recommend that you contact our specialist dental negligence team who will be more than happy to assist and advise you on whether you may be successful in bringing a claim of negligence.

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