Many NHS orthodontic contracts are due to expire at the end of March 2011. Consequently, the Department of Health has issued the following advice: NHS orthodontic contract advice for PCTs. This advice explores the options available to PCTs for re-commissioning orthodontic services following contract expiry.

A lot of orthodontic contracts were entered into as five-year fixed term Personal Dental Services contracts, running from 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2011. However, this is not the case for all orthodontic contracts and so the first thing to do is to check the particular contract’s duration, expiry, termination provisions and any provision for extension of its term. Whether the contract will expire, and the options available for re-commissioning, will depend on what these provisions say in the particular contract.

Having identified that a contract will expire at the end of March 2011, the advice sets out the Department’s views on the options available to PCTs. The advice emphasises that the Principles and Rules for Co-operation and Competition (PRCC) set out overriding principles governing commissioning decisions. It also highlights that procurement activity must comply with the PRCC and Procurement Guide.

Interestingly, even though orthodontic services are categorised as Part B services for procurement purposes, the Department’s advice seems to suggest that all replacement orthodontic contracts ought to go through an open procurement. The advice is that a PCT should only award a new contract to an existing provider (or extend its current contract) without a procurement process on a short term transitional basis, pending anticipated changes in NHS policy for dental services.

A further stated option is, of course, not to re-commission the service. This may not be appropriate in many cases though.