The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) must deliver a thorough report that considers the pressures that shape dentistry in the UK, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned in response to an announcement that the agency is to undertake a review of the sector. Recent years have seen a complex set of factors influence the care that patients receive.
The BDA has additionally cautioned that the timing of the review must not compromise its integrity. It comes just eight years after the OFT last looked at dentistry and in the midst of profound changes to the way that the sector is organised across the UK. The team responsible for the review have been given less than six months to complete their task, with a report expected by March 2012, according to the announcement.
The review has a wide scope and will consider issues including charging, access to the market for new entrants, access to hygienists and the ability of patients to switch dentists. The announcement also says it will look generally at whether the NHS and private dental markets are working well for patients.
Dr John Milne, Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said:
“The OFT’s 2003 report provided a reminder of the importance of good patient-dentist communication in dentistry. This focus on communication was echoed by the BDA, which called for measures including a complaints service specifically for private dentistry. That service has now been introduced and has the BDA’s full support.
“This report, too, has the potential to be useful. It is ambitious in its scope and follows a period of significant change in dentistry. In the eight years since the last review we’ve seen ill-conceived changes to regulation that have put box-ticking before care, the growth of corporate dental bodies in both NHS and private provision, a significant enlargement in the dental workforce, and botched NHS dental reforms in England that have constrained dentists’ attempts to care for their patients.
“In an effort to put right the last, we are now seeing further fundamental reforms, particularly in regard to NHS contracts and commissioning in England. It is important that all parties who have pushed for these reforms, including Government, patient groups and the profession, remain focused on their success. All concerned must guard against allowing this to become a distraction and the OFT must ensure that it does not make premature judgements about things that are still in flux and thereby compromise its report.
“Scrutiny of the roles of the Care Quality Commission and General Dental Council in dentistry is timely given recent independent reviews that have criticised these agencies.”
The BDA will look carefully at the terms of reference for the inquiry, consult its elected representatives, and provide a full response to the OFT. Details of the review are available at: http://www.oft.gov.uk/news-and-updates/press/today?prid=821513.
NHS dentistry is undergoing a significant overhaul in England following criticism by the House of Commons Select Committee and an independent review by Professor Jimmy Steele of Newcastle Dental School. The BDA is supportive of these reforms and the Department of Health has recently announced the launch of pilots for change. Details can be found at: http://www.bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/33370-dental-pilots-are-positive-step-says-bda.aspx.
The Care Quality Commission’s role in regulating dentistry has been heavily criticised by the House of Commons Health Select Committee this week. Details are available at: http://www.bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/33468-cqc-failings-laid-bare-by-report-says-bda.aspx.
The performance of the General Dental Council has come under attack from the Commission for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence in two reports this year. The most recent of these was published on 5 September. Details are available at: http://www.bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/33392-audit-heightens-concerns-about-gdc-says-bda.aspx.