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See you later regulator

Blog Author Mick Armstrong

Blog Date 04/04/2017

wordcloud-regulation.jpgLike or loathe Tony Blair you can’t escape the fact that when he was the PM, he memorably claimed his priorities for government were ‘education, education, education.’ Similarly, when we asked dentists what their watchword is, they’ve been just as clear.

It’s regulation, regulation, regulation.

A recent analysis of the most extensive member research the BDA has undertaken in decades confirmed that 98% of respondents to the 2016 survey said regulation was their top priority – ahead of every other policy issue including earnings and the (near-universally hated) NHS contract.

The fact is that practically all dentists have a low opinion of the General Dental Council, and – it would seem – the feeling is mutual. Maybe we should get Tony Blair in to broker a peace treaty.

Or perhaps we should be making the case ourselves. The feedback from our members to guide our response to the GDC’s long-awaited consultation on improving dental regulation has already been truly phenomenal.

Thousands of dentists have been moved to respond to the BDA’s own wide-ranging survey on what the profession wants from regulation, since we launched this at the end of February.

Thanks to all those who responded to our survey, you have made your views loud and clear, and we will be including these in our official response to the GDC’s consultation.

I don’t shop at Harrods or Fortnum Mason, but ‘if I did’, I would hope that I would be getting the best available goods with the best available service. If I didn’t get that value-for-money – I’d be fuming mad.

I am, however, compelled to shop at the GDC – even if only metaphorically. It is the most expensive and least effective regulator in the UK. I know, we all know, that the profession deserves better.

What do we need from our overlords? Nothing too unreasonable; the BDA wants the public to be protected – no one ever became a dentist to harm the public – but, at the same time, registrants also need to be reassured and supported.

The system should be fair, transparent, and efficient: where’s the justice in the GDC dragging out a complaint for months, if not years?

Local resolution would be quicker, which would be fairer to patients and practitioners both. If you have a dispute with your next-door neighbour, it is usually much less hassle to settle it over a cup of tea and a biscuit, rather than taking it to court.

Of course, that means that you’re going to have pay salaries for fewer judges. Only a cynic would say that this might have been a consideration in GDC policy.

No one would argue that the GDC shouldn’t protect patients from poor standards but the other side of that equation is that registrants need to have confidence in a regulator’s ability to regulate – and the indicators from our surveys show that the GDC still has monumental work to do here if it is to survive the long-haul….  

A joker at the last Local Dental Committee meeting I went to said:

- “Knock, knock, who’s there?” 

– “It is the Spanish inquisition, and we intend to torture you within an inch of your life.”

- “Thank goodness, I thought it was the GDC….”

There is something terribly wrong when it’s not just seasoned dentists like me but graduates just out of dental school are telling us that they are terrified of the regulator. We all know that fear and terror encourages defensive practice – how is that good for patients or practitioners?

Some people associate dental surgery with fear. I really never wanted to see the day when our newest practitioners were in that group.

It doesn’t help matters that the GDC recently chose to reappoint a chair who has almost singlehandedly demolished professional confidence in regulation.

We want to use the findings from our survey to guide the talks with health ministers, maybe even leading to a “super regulator”. Personally, I don’t need my regulator to be “super”: “Adequate”, or even “competent” would both be a step up.

This discussion is going on. How do we deal with it?

The BDA is determined that our members be heard – change is coming; if you want your voice to be part of the discussion about that change, including any thoughts you might have on the regulator – then you are cordially invited to participate.

With your support, we can win the argument for that change including a regulator and a chair that really understands dentists and dentistry.

Mick Armstrong

Chair BDA Principal Executive Committee

Better regulation for dentistry

We believe patients and practitioners deserve an effective and efficient dental regulator. Dentists should not have to pay the price for mismanagement at their regulator, and we are campaigning for change, find out what we’ve been doing on regulation.