The LDC has been part of the North West London Integrated Care Board’s Primary Care Programme Board since April this year. While it was great that the LDC and profession were invited to this meeting and recognised as key parts of primary care, the meetings continued to be heavily GP focussed. This is to be expected as the Integrated Care System continues its transition and development. General Medical Practice has a stronger history of integration and management within the predecessor organisations. Dental care, by contrast, only became the responsibility of the Integrated Care Boards in April this year, but we cannot expect any practical implications of this move until the next financial year.
That said, we have been pleased to see the interest in dental services from the Board. Jeff Sherer, LDC Director for Hillingdon, May Indrakumar, Clinical Director of CDS at CLCH, and I recently met with the Director of Primary Care, Senior Responsible Officer for Dentistry, and Chair of the Primary Care Programme Board to discuss how we can make sure dentistry is well represented, understood and utilised in the new system.
We discussed the importance of keeping dental funding in the dental budget, but the difficulties that practices are having in servicing their contracts. This made the argument for a more flexible use of commissioning, as outlined in recent NHS guidance, all the more clear. That said, while we, and the ICB, are keen to see developments of flexible commissioning we also want to see consistency across London and no return to postcode lotteries. As a result the ICBs will be looking at working together through the Dental, Optometry and Pharmacy Commissioning Oversight Group to deliver this consistency.
A major barrier facing practices is workforce, so it was great to see that the ICB was keen to engage with the Regional Postgraduate Dental Dean for London. This engagement would be part of the continuation of regular meetings with the ICB, a nascent oral health group for north west London. We hope that by bringing all the key dental stakeholders in north west London we can develop plans which safeguard and improve dental services. This meeting will feed into the wider Primary Care Programme Board and ensure that the dental voice is strong, coordinated and driving realistic implementable changes which work for dentists and patients.
It was really pleasing to see such great ambition and openness from the ICB and a real commitment to engaging with the profession to work together. By aligning our priorities and our skills with those of the wider plans of the ICB we will show the value of dental care and why significant improvements to our contract, led by local experience, are necessary for the future of health improvement.