A message from NHS England Contract Team:
As you are aware the NHS faces increasing pressure, particularly over extended bank holiday periods and whilst demand for routine dental care over the Christmas and New Year period is generally low, we need to ensure there is sufficient reliable access for patients who require urgent care.
We appreciate that some practices may wish to close early or close completely on some days during the Christmas and New Year period and in line with previous years it is acceptable where there are adequate arrangements in place to ensure patients who contact your practice, not just your regular list of patients, can access urgent care.
If you wish to close you should ensure that you have a buddy practice(s) and that they will increase their capacity for urgent care in order to offer treatment for patients that have come to them via your practice’s answer phone, website and notice on the door, as well as those that have rung the buddy practice direct. Alternatively, it is acceptable for you or one of your performers to carry out remote triage and arrange to see a patient face to face should this be required/or have a buddy arrangement in place; if such an arrangement is put in place this must be in real time by giving a mobile number for patients to ring, rather than picking up messages from your answer phone.
Please be aware that it is not acceptable to refer patients needing face to face appointments either to an out of hours service or 111. Out of hours services should be used by patients only where their urgent dental need starts outside of normal practice opening hours.
- If you enter a buddy arrangement, the buddy practice(s) must hold an NHS contract.
- Practices cannot signpost patients to the 111 system within their contracted working hours over the Christmas and New Year period. It is not permitted to use any third party arrangements which would still involve patients calling 111 in the first instance.
- It is acceptable to give a dedicated mobile phone number on your practice answer phone, website and poster to enable patients to access urgent and emergency care during your normal hours. The phone should be answered by a dentist who can remote triage as a minimum, going into the practice to see any that require face to face care or passing their details to a buddy practice who would call the patient back with an appointment for face to face care.