New dental registration may harm patient care, say dentists

Plans to change NHS dental registration in Scotland could harm patient care, according to a survey of high street dentists.

Dentists are worried that proposals to introduce continuous registration could send the wrong message about the value of regular check-ups.

The scheme would sweep away the need for patients to visit their dentist in order to remain registered with them.

In a survey of GDPs from across Scotland, 87% of respondents said they were opposed to the introduction of continuous registration.

Concerns included:

• it undermines the importance of regular check-ups

• It fails to promote a strong dentist-patient relationship

• It increases the chances of serious conditions such as mouth cancer going undetected.

There were also fears about the strain on NHS services caused by patients who chose to attend less regularly.

Irregular attendance often results in more complex and time-consuming treatment being required.

Catering for a greater number of emergency appointments would also increase waiting times for patients attending regular appointments.

Colin Crawford, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘This survey is an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the proposed change to continuous registration. The profession has worked hard to improve Scotland’s unenviable oral health record by promoting the value of preventive dental care. The proposed change threatens to undermine that work.

‘Continuous registration may be politically expedient – it will create an illusion of growing numbers of patients accessing dentistry – but it doesn’t genuinely improve patient care. We urge the Scottish Government to think again on this plan. Massaging figures isn’t the way to improve the oral health of Scotland; ensuring there are adequate numbers of dentists, encouraging patients to visit them regularly and working with the profession is.’ 

The BDA has communicated the results of the survey, and reiterated its concerns about continuous registration, in a letter  to the Scottish Government.

 

Under the current arrangements, patients who attend at the interval agreed with their dentist maintain their registered status, effectively enjoying open-ended registration anyway.

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