Report finds confused regulatory landscape for dentists

A REPORT published by the CQC and other regulatory bodies has concluded that there is currently no "clear model" of regulation for dentists in England, with "limited understanding between organisations of who does what, when and how".

The future of dental service regulation is the culmination of a one-year programme carried out by The Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board (RDSPB). The report outlines key areas of improvement and agreed actions that will make dental regulation more coherent, streamlined and effective and reduce the burden on practitioners while still "providing the protection that the public must receive".

The report found that the current system of regulation offers no clear definition of roles and responsibilities between organisations, creating a risk of duplication and inefficiency within the system. It states: "When complaints arise, or issues such as infection control surface, there is potential for the same dentist to be scrutinised by three organisations (CQC, GDC and NHS England) for the same issue, all of whom have the power to impose significant sanctions. Other bodies may also inspect dental practices, for example, Health Education England and Public Health England."

It also found that there is limited data sharing to manage risk proactively and learn from what is improving, and this is compounded by the difference in data available for NHS dentistry in comparison to private practitioners. The report identifies seven areas of needed improvement:

  • Defining respective roles and responsibilities in the dental system
  • Defining a clear model for the regulatory system
  • Improving data, information and intelligence sharing
  • Defining a system with a recognised role for complaints handling
  • Developing a proactive approach to keeping patients informed and involved
  • Defining the role of quality improvement
  • Implementing a communications programme to providers.

The BDA has responded to the report stressing the urgency of rationalisation and has called on all the parties involved to press ahead with implementing the action plan.

Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association said: "The proposals set out in this paper are simple common sense. As we've long argued no one wins from overregulation, and removing these multiple jeopardies could start lifting a huge weight from the shoulders of this profession.

"As low-risk practitioners we're forced to juggle competing demands from some agencies that frankly don't understand their own roles and responsibilities. This red tape hasn't made patients safer. It has, as this report rightly acknowledges, bred huge inefficiencies and made stress at work the default for colleagues."

The RDSPB is made up of representatives from the General Dental Council, NHS England, The Department of Health, the Care Quality Commission, NHS Business Services Authority and Healthwatch England.

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