Photo credit: Getty Images
BDA Scotland has been busy working on your behalf this year. Our staff and committee members have been making the case for dentistry and highlighting a number of issues affecting dentists working in Scotland.
Campaigning on dentists' pay
At the top of our agenda remains pay for dentists working in Scotland. Following publication of the UK Government's pay review body (DDRB) report in July, where a 2.5% pay uplift for General Dental Practitioners was recommended, we called on the Scottish Government to accept the DDRB's recommendation, to ensure an award of at least 3% for expenses, to introduce the overall pay uplifts as soon as possible and to backdate them to April 2019.
The Scottish Government implemented the review body's recommendation, and while we were disappointed only to receive 2.5% for pay and expenses, we will continue to call for all dentists' pay uplifts to at least keep track with inflation in 2020.
We have also been campaigning about the pay and terms and conditions for community dentists working in Scotland. Earlier this year, we highlighted a number of concerns about the future of the Public Dental Service (PDS) in Scotland.
These included continued funding cuts, staff reductions (an overall fall of 16% of PDS posts between 2013/14 and 2017/18) and the consequent impact on patient access.
We followed this up with a survey to all NHS Boards requesting details of PDS funding and workforce trends, and the impact these have had on patient care.
Throughout the year, we've been asking for your thoughts on how we represent you, and we used the results from a BDA membership survey undertaken in June to flag up the key issues you are facing with the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, and the Scottish Public Pensions Agency.
Better dental regulation
Regulation is another key area we have been working on, as we know increasing bureaucracy, rising levels of stress for dentists and a fear of our regulator are all concerns you have raised. We regularly meet with the the General Dental Council to put forward the case for better regulation for dentistry. The GDC's Director of Fitness to Practice, Tom Scott attended our Scottish Council meeting in March to discuss progress with the GDC's End-to-End review, the GDC's latest operational performance data and the GDC's strategic priorities.
BDA representatives and members raised a number of questions about the GDC's continued underperformance of KPIs, timescales for progressing cases (and the subsequent pressure on dentists), local resolution of cases, and referrals of dentists to the GDC by other dentists. Tom Scott also attended the Scottish Council meeting in December to give members a further update on the GDC's FtP performance to date.
In terms of regulation, we have also clarified the advice to dentists, and we highlighted the main difference in the inspection of wholly private and NHS dental practices, which was causing some areas of concern.
We also informed members about the new quality improvement arrangements for the three-year cycle 2019/22. We have long-argued that the previous clinical audit or quality-improvement arrangements were unsatisfactory due to the bureaucratic approach and administrative burden.
We also have recently asked GDPs for their views on aspects of Practitioner Services Division's (PSD) performance, including timeliness of approvals and payments, and communication and support. While PSD introduced a number of improvements following the previous survey in 2016, we continue to raise the problems GDPs are encountering to lower the burden placed on practices.
Tackling stress and burnout in dentistry
Increasing levels of stress and burnout is a concerning trend for those working in our profession. The Scottish Dental Practice Committee (SDPC) fought hard over many years for Scotland dentists and their teams to get access to the NHS Occupational Health Advice and Guidance Service, and we were delighted when it was introduced in June 2018. We will continue to monitor the uptake of this service and to collect data on the mental health and wellbeing status of dentists working in Scotland, to ensure our workforce is supported.
Prevention is key for good oral health
Prevention and ensuring good oral health for all also remains a core concern for us. Scottish Government launched its Oral Health Improvement Plan (OHIP) in January 2018 and whilst we welcomed the overarching aims of the plan, we felt more detail, and more commitment in times of real investment was required to make this plan a reality. In June, your Scottish Council representatives met with the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing and Chief Dental Officer to seek assurance that any funding to implement the plan would not be taken from the existing NHS dentistry budget. We will meet with the Minister again in January 2020.
While we've welcomed the continued overall improvement in children's dental health this year, we have also
called on the Scottish Government to renew its efforts to tackle deep inequalities by investing more in prevention and local resources.
We also remain concerned about the lengthy waiting times for paediatric extractions under general anaesthetic, and recently issued a Freedom of Information request to all NHS Boards for relevant data. We plan to use this evidence to raise the issue at a national level.
The needs of the vulnerable patients are also on our agenda. This year, SDPC and Scottish Public Dental Service Committee members commented on draft proposals to train a number of "accredited" GDPs to deliver care in care homes. Scottish Government amended its proposals in light of these comments.
The Scottish Government has set up design groups to take forward proposals for a "new model of care" for adult NHS dentistry, and we ensured that SDPC is represented on both these groups, so the proposals are workable and affordable.
We also held an informal introductory meeting with eight of the new interim NHS Directors of Dentistry (DoDs) in April, and we continue to monitor the progress of this new initiative and seek to influence the discussions on matters affecting dentists.
Campaigning for improvements in dental public health also remains a key priority for us. This year, we followed up our
Oral Cancer Action Plan (published in November 2018) and have continued to raise awareness of the issues through: publishing blogs on the importance of early detection; campaigning for an HPV vaccination catch-up programme for boys; running a survey of all NHS Boards on their progress in implementing the actions in our plan; and submitting a number of Parliamentary Questions on oral cancer issues.
All these issues take time, but rest assured, the BDA Scotland staff and your representatives are working hard behind the scenes to enable change and to get the best deal for dentistry.
We'd like to thank all our members too, by being a part of the BDA, you are helping to make our voice stronger. We look forward to continuing to work both with you and for you in 2020.
BDA Scotland National Director