DENTAL inspections by the Care Quality Commission will be more targeted and focus on practices where there is "cause for concern," according to a recent "sign-posting" statement on potential changes to the way it regulates primary care dental services in England.
The CQC is also considering whether every inspection team should include a dental specialist advisor and people with extensive understanding of dental services, acting as "experts by experience".
The statement comes ahead of a formal consultation and the start of trial inspections in November 2014.
Dental services present fewer concerns on the whole compared with other providers, according to the CQC. For example, between April 2011 and October 2013, only one in eight dental locations were found to fall short of regulations in some way compared with one in five in adult social care. The CQC proposes to inspect only 10 per cent of dental providers, focusing attention upon those that are seen as "cause for concern".
It also plans to make better use of intelligence about services and take a collaborative approach with the GDC, NHS England and the NHS Business Services Authority in monitoring dental care standards. The regulator also wants to make sure that comments and feedback from the public and groups such as Healthwatch are integral to regulation.
The CQC will also be seeking views on whether to provide ratings to dental practices after 2016.
Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services, said: "Our priority is to take a more collaborative approach with our partners in order to monitor and improve dental care standards in future.
"I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in primary care dental services to share their thoughts with us at this initial signposting stage and when we launch our formal consultation this autumn. By doing so, we can we work together to ensure that our future approach can best serve both providers and people using dental services."
John Milne, Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: "Time and again, the CQC has shown dentistry to be a low risk sector. But for too long it adopted a costly 'one size fits' all approach to dental inspection – and so we welcome moves to a more targeted, risk based approach.
"We are pleased that the CQC appears to have listened to reason, so we finally see dental experts on the front line for dental inspections. It’s a simple, common sense move that would be seen as positive throughout the profession.
"It remains unclear if an OFSTED-style system is a decent fit for dentistry. The profession would need to be convinced that any rating system is fair and workable. We are a long way from that position at present."