Moving on

Making the move from VT to dental associate can be daunting. MDDUS dental adviser Claire Renton highlights the key areas to consider

IT’S LIKELY that by now you are fairly settled in your new job. You’ve worked out that most of the nurses are skilled, knowledgeable and keen to help, that the receptionist is the best person ever at multitasking and the principal is best avoided first thing on a Monday morning.

You have probably even had a stab at understanding the Statement of Dental Remuneration and have become familiar with some of the more usual claim codes. I bet that even the dentistry has got a bit easier, hasn’t it? You are probably putting all your matrix bands on the right way round now and your IDBs are working first time… Ok, well at least second time. Pat yourself on the back! It’s going so well!

Now I’m not going to burst your bubble with horror stories of what happens when things go wrong, I’m not even going to have a go about record keeping or behaving yourself at the Christmas party. I’m going to talk about the things you might want to consider getting into place over the next few months when it’s time to move on.

What kind of practice do you want to be working in? Which aspects of dentistry interest and excite you? What type of people do you enjoy working with? These are decisions that you should be thinking about soon. There’s a massive difference between facial aesthetic practices and smile designs and treating patients who struggle to fund simple fillings, but both types of practice bring professional rewards and are equally worthwhile.

What things do you need to get in place?

GDC registration

Well, you need to make sure you remain on the General Dental Council register. The annual retention fee is payable in December. If it’s not paid and your name isn’t on the register come January 1, you won’t be allowed to practise and it can be really difficult to get back on the register without jumping through some serious hoops. One easy solution is to set up a direct debit, perhaps choosing a date in early December when you have most money in your account, being sure to check that the payment has gone through. If there’s any doubt, check with the GDC before the December 31 deadline.

Indemnity

The other essential thing to have in place is indemnity cover. It is a legal requirement to have this in place so that, God forbid, if any of your patients suffer harm at your hands, they can make a claim and be restored or compensated.

So, why choose indemnity over insurance? Well the simple truth is that the advantages of an indemnity provider over an insurance product are massive. At MDDUS, when you call with a problem or just for some advice you speak to a dentist… a real live dentist, one that’s on the GDC register who can actually do dentistry! We are backed up by our own large in-house legal team made up of some of the most experienced medical and dental defence solicitors in the country.

So, if one of our members needs solid legal advice we can provide it quickly and efficiently by discussing the matter with a real practising solicitor. Should a patient raise a claim against you then the dental adviser works with the legal team to resolve the case with your best interests at the forefront of their mind. If one of our members is referred to the GDC, their professional position is defended with, and this bit is really important, no limit to the costs. That’s right, no limit to the costs; there’s no cap. What you need to defend your position, you will get. Barristers, legal teams and experts can all be really expensive. Compare that to some of the insurance products out there that have a cap on costs and you can sleep easy if you are with MDDUS.

Of course the best advantage of having indemnity instead of insurance is that we provide occurrence-based cover. This means that, provided you were a member when the alleged incident happened, you will have access to assistance. This applies even if you have since left us, or if the accusation is about something that happened many years ago. In contrast, insurance policies generally only provide assistance while you are paying a subscription. If you wish to end your policy you may not be covered for alleged incidents in the past unless you buy what is known as “run-off cover” – often a costly added extra.

MDDUS can also use our discretion to assist you. If the matter concerning you is something to do with the practice of dentistry then we are most likely to assist. The problem doesn’t have to fit a list of predetermined criteria and we are not tied to the words of a contract of insurance which, if it’s anything like my home insurance cover, will likely have so much small print and so many exclusions that it’s just too much of an effort to make a claim. With us, it’s simple: if you’ve got a problem, get in touch and we will do all we can to help. Now, guess what really helps your defence of a dental matter? Yep, you got it in one… good dental records. Ok I know I promised, but I just can’t help myself!

Practical insurance

So what other things do you need to think about before you step out into the big bad world? Well there are some insurance products that might be worth considering. While they are not essential, medical sickness policies which provide you with income if you are off sick, and critical illness policies are both worth investigating.

Lifelong learning

Other things to be aware of include continuing profession development (CPD), another GDC requirement, which runs in five year cycles. Your cycle end depends on the year you register with the GDC. During this cycle you are required to undertake 250 hours of CPD, 75 of which must be verifiable. You should log onto the GDC website and upload your CPD hours annually. At the end of each cycle the GDC audits dentists and may ask for evidence of hours undertaken, so keep your CPD certificates safe.

Audit requirements are a condition of having an NHS list number in Scotland. Dentists are obliged to do 15 hours of audit or significant event analysis every three years. There are some national projects that can be joined or alternatively do a practice-based audit which will bring about real benefit to you and your practice. Perhaps in record keeping?... Stop it!

It’s obviously difficult to predict where we will be in 20 years’ time and what professional roles we will be carrying out. Dentistry provides ever-widening opportunities for career development and I do feel that we are lucky to be in this profession. With only a little bit of forward planning and organisation our obligations to maintain our registration can be fulfilled and we can get on with enjoying our career.

Merry Christmas… and don’t forget to behave at the practice night out!

Claire Renton is a dental adviser at MDDUS