Dentistry in the UK must navigate a minefield of potential problems if it is to continue to deliver for patients, the Chair of the BDA’s Executive Board warned today in a speech to the 2012 British Dental Conference and Exhibition. Dr Susie Sanderson said that dental care is facing a series of threats that could undermine patient care in the next few years and urged the Government to pay close attention to a number of crucial issues.
There must not, Dr Sanderson stressed, be a repeat of the chaos of 2006 in England when new PCT structures and commissioning arrangements coincided with the imposition of a new dental contract and a fiasco for practitioners and patients resulted. Instead, in order that the reforms in England have a reasonable chance of success, the Government must address both existing and developing challenges, including the transition of commissioning from local to national levels, the development of Local Professional Networks and the need to reinforce the Dental Public Health workforce, she explained.
Dr Sanderson also argued that the shift in regulatory practice in recent years risks being counterproductive. Commonsense and proportionality have been overtaken by a “something must be done about it now” mentality in assessing risk, she said. She was also critical of the frustratingly slow pace of the Department of Health in addressing the profession’s concerns about the HTM 01-05 decontamination guidance, lamenting its inability to act more quickly to address problems in a way that might reassure the profession.
Looking forward to the expected publication in May of the Office of Fair Trading’s report of its inquiry into dentistry across the whole of the UK, Dr Sanderson urged the OFT not to make the mistake of misunderstanding dental care and thinking of it as a commodity, but instead to respect its special and complex nature.
The speech also saw Dr Sanderson reserve a special challenge for Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality, who will address delegates on the second day of the event, Friday 27 April. The Minister must convince delegates that he has a strong, joined-up vision for dental teams that will respect their professionalism, harness their skills and convince them that the Government is listening to them, she said.