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Learning disability and autism code of practice requires further guidance

Following a consultation, we have responded to the Government’s Oliver McGowan draft code of practice on statutory learning disability and autism training.

We have objected to several of the points made, hoping to save practices time and money by removing bureaucracy from the implementation of training.

We fully support the sentiments behind the learning but believe that the training requirements set out are too prescriptive. The document is unclear, repetitive, and needs further guidance for providers to follow it. A one size fits all approach is outdated, creates barriers to training, and does not recognise the differences in the size of health providers.

The framework introduces three tiers of training, with most dental staff needing to be trained to tier two which requires a one-day course. We feel that this amount of time away from the practice, the impact on patients, and the financial implications are disproportionate for the level of involvement most staff have in the care of these patients. In our view, tier three training would only be required for dentists working in the community dental service, or special care dentistry.

Dental practices should have guidance and support to decide what training is appropriate and how best to address individual practice needs. Dentists should not have the burden of working out which accreditations are acceptable and instead, should be able to go to a training company and be assured that all the requirements set out in the code are met by that trainer.

It is vital that any training takes account of the setting the care is delivered in, high street dentistry is very different to medical care in a hospital. While some requirements may be straightforward for trusts to implement, small dental practices, such as those with only one dentist and limited administrative support, will find them far more onerous.

Our experience shows that dental professionals are very receptive to learning about assisting patients with learning disabilities; however, the strictness of the code risks blunting enthusiasm. Spending more time learning does not necessarily equal better results. We will continue to impress that it is vital to not lose sight of the original aim to improve care for people living with learning disabilities and autism.