Following the chaotic collapse of the tendering process for NHS orthodontic services in the West Midlands, the BDA and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) have called on Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to halt all future procurements, and to outline plans to compensate individual providers who have been left up to £30,000 out of pocket.
The sector leaders made their call in a letter delivered today to the Health Secretary and NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens. The process to decide on decade-long contracts, estimated to be worth over £65 million, was abandoned last week after six chaotic months dogged by administrative failings that had forced the reopening of tenders. Similar moves across other English regions have faced legal challenges.
In some circumstances children who have been waiting for years to start orthodontic treatment on the NHS may face going to the back of the queue when current providers lose their contracts, with existing patients potentially running the risk of long journeys if they do not live near one the new providers.
Sector leaders say tendering processes place huge burdens on dedicated practices and encourage a 'race to the bottom' to deliver NHS services at the cheapest price. Some contracts in NHS Southern region have already been handed back by successful bidders owing to lack of staff.
The letter outlines the very significant costs facing all providers who participated in tenders who have been left in limbo following the halt to the process. Costs have routinely exceeded £10,000 to put together a tender but have reached £30,000 in some cases.
The BDA has already called on all parties to commit to scrapping tendering for dental services, and for special consideration for the many high performing practices that have lost their contracts during this process.