The Dentist Magazine.

Legal bid launched as committed providers squeezed out of NHS orthodontic contracts

Published: 06/04/2017

The British Dental Association (BDA) has initiated legal proceedings against NHS England for setting up potentially impossible barriers to smaller contractors in tenders for over £1/2bn of orthodontic services.

The BDA has argued that the tendering process, covering orthodontic services in the South of England, is in breach of Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition (PCCC) regulations by failing to treat providers equally and through introducing a procurement system – the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) – that is weighted heavily in favour of larger dental companies. The 10 year contracts are valued at £56m per annum.

NHS England has encouraged providers to consider creating consortia and submitting bids via those consortia. The BDA contends that it will be an inevitable consequence of the implementation of the DPS that some present providers of orthodontic services will not be able to meet the eligibility criteria, despite being high quality providers.

The BDA also contends NHS England has acted unlawfully by failing to engage with patients or provide a robust needs assessment on changes that will radically impact on services. NHS England has already agreed to the BDA's calls to extend the registration period.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said,"A tendering process that will have a profound impact on orthodontic services across the South of England has been designed to shut out dedicated providers and the public. 

“This plan will leave NHS orthodontics available at far fewer sites, meaning children and their families travelling further to access the treatment they need. NHS England have singularly failed in their duty to meaningfully engage with patients and the profession and we intend to remind them of their responsibilities.  

“The message from NHS England to orthodontic providers couldn’t be clearer – ‘Only Big Beasts need apply’. We will not let NHS England load the dice in favour of larger providers and jeopardise the livelihoods of hundreds of our members.”