Government must delay introducing new care records system for dentistry

Dental leaders are today warning that the Government must delay the implementation of SNOMED CT, the new system of clinical terminology for NHS dentistry, which is due to be enforced from 1 April 2020.


SNOMED CT is a structured clinical vocabulary for use in an electronic health record. The implementation of this new system has been fraught with issues and the dental sector is not prepared to use SNOMED at a time of national public health emergency and with such little guidance.


If the Government do not delay this, dentists across the UK will have to use SNOMED CT in electronic care records for NHS patient from April 1, with little to no government support for implementation or training and at a time when dental practices are already under significant strain due to the coronavirus emergency.


The move to this system would add significant additional time to every NHS dental appointment, which is likely to lead to delays in service access for NHS patients. This comes at a time when practices are already struggling to cope with workforce shortages and the impact of COVID-19.


Members of the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) have yet to receive the information required to fully implement SNOMED CT, even though this has been requested many times in the past year. The ADG have also discovered that the guidance for this implementation has been removed from the support website, causing further confusion.


The ADG, along with the UK Dental Software Suppliers Association, have asked for guidance on and raised issues around the implementation of this new system multiple times in letters to the Chief Dental Officer and NHS England. These letters have been ignored. Now in the final hour, given the strain on the wider health sector and on dentistry, the mandatory implementation must be pushed back.


Chair of the Association of Dental Groups, Neil Carmichael said:


“Given the current workforce shortages – exacerbated by COVID-19 – and general access issues in the dentistry sector, it is imperative the Government moves immediately to delay the implementation of this system by at least a year.


“Our members are fully committed to ensuring our services are compliant with all legislative and regulatory requirements, but it is not appropriate or helpful to force the implementation of this system at a time of national public health emergency and when NHS England are unable to provide the level of support practices needed.


“The ADG have made formal requests to various regulatory authorities requesting the specifications to enable the implementation of SNOMED CT within our software solutions but we have not received any substantive response. This is exceptionally disappointing and underlines how no one in the sector is prepared for SNOMED CT to be implemented.


“Extra time would allow us to get the information and training needed to ensure this roll-out is a success and delivers the benefits everyone in the dentistry sector wants it to achieve.


“ADG members have carried out detailed planning for COVID-19 and put all the necessary clinical preparations in place. Their priority at this moment must be to ensure the continued delivery of dental care to their local communities.”


Chair of the UK Dental Software Suppliers Association, Ben Flewett said:


“The members of the UK Dental Software Suppliers Association have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the implementation of SNOMED CT within UK dentistry on many occasions since 2016.


“Whilst our members’ software products have been modified to incorporate support for SNOMED CT, the shortcomings in the approach adopted by the authorities in the UK mean that the implementation of SNOMED CT will result in substantial additional administrative and clinical workload within the dental practice.


“Our members strongly suggest the imposition of this additional workload on practices and clinicians during the national COVID-19 healthcare crisis would contribute greatly to an already challenging situation.


“The deferral of SNOMED CT for UK dentistry would permit more time for government agencies to re-consider their approach and, most importantly, enable practices to focus on managing the COVID-19 crisis and delivering the necessary care to NHS patients at this time.”