An increasing number of dental practices are ‘underperforming’ by not delivering their contracts.
Figures from NHS England, which commissions ‘in hours’ dental care, indicate that 14 out of 23 General Dental Service contracts in Peterborough will have seen an underperformance in 2017/18, with nine on course to reach their target.
That compares to seven which underperformed in 2016/17.
David Barter, head of commissioning at NHS England Midlands and East, said practices underperform when they do not reach the level of “patient activity” they were contracted to meet.
He told Peterborough City Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee: “One of the situations we have in Peterborough is there are quite a lot of practices that do not currently deliver their contracts, so we are having detailed discussions with them as contract holders as to why they are not delivering that contract and how they can deliver that contract, providing more units of dental activity and more treatments to the people of Peterborough they serve.”
Just over £9 million was spent on primary care dental service provision in the Peterborough area in 2017/18.
A report by NHS England stated: “Access issues have been identified in the Peterborough area, with some patients struggling to access both routine and urgent dental care.”
This led to £156,000 of additional funding being put into the Peterborough area for “urgent care at the dental access centre and additional routine and urgent care with a small number of dental practices.”
The money was clawed back from contracts which underperformed.
Committee member Cllr Bella Saltmarsh, Liberal Democrat member for Dogsthorpe, said: “In my local ward there are no local dentists. It’s very hard to encourage someone to go to the dentists if they have nowhere to go.”
Cllr Mohammed Jamil, Labour member for Central ward, said: “One of the things we hear at surgeries is people moan there are not enough dentists.”
Mr Barter said reasons for underperformance could include more people using private dentists, or a shortage of dentists in some areas of high demand.
Commissioning officer for NHS England Midlands and East Roxana Mojoo Jones was also asked about the possibility of a mobile dentist service.
She said: “We are looking at all special care services in the whole of East Anglia. We are looking at options and still scoping, doing all the ground work and the discussions with stakeholders. It’s an ongoing project and nothing has been decided and agreed at this stage.”