Healthcare bosses are investigating the possibility of locally determined payments for NHS dentistry services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

Nicci Briggs, Chief Finance Officer of the region’s Integrated Care Board (ICB), said a local tariff could help incentivise dentists to take on NHS patients. 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s ICB, which brings together healthcare providers with local authorities, is the only one in the country looking into this, she said. 

Ms Briggs said it’s recognised that “the [NHS] dental contract fundamentally isn’t working”.

The NHS hasn’t changed it since 2006 as it can’t afford to, she added, but a local tariff could potentially help it compete with private rates. 

Currently, the tariff for NHS dentistry is set nationally.

Dentists incentivised to take on NHS patients

Ms Briggs explained that dentists aren’t compelled to take on NHS patients and that the ICB’s only power to encourage take up is through incentivisation.

The government has also made a renewed effort at this, such as by offering £15–50 payments to dentists offering services to people who haven’t had an NHS appointment in two or more years.

It comes after seven million fewer patients saw an NHS dentist compared with pre-pandemic levels between 2020 and 2022.

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‘Two or three’ dentists willing to take on extra NHS sessions

So far, “two or three” providers in Peterborough are willing to take on extra NHS sessions of up to 10 per week, Ms Briggs said, of the 15–20 that have NHS contracts in the city. 

Details will be finalised and shared in the next couple of weeks, she added. 

Patients don’t have to be registered with a dentist to receive NHS services and can request these from any high street dentist, but the response will depend on capacity. 

Peterborough is also due to receive a dental van, which will also serve hard-to-reach places in Fenland, this summer.