A fresh start

01-01-10 has a very modern, digital sort of a ring to it, don’t you think? The start of a new decade has to be a portentous moment of great opportunity. It certainly can be, if you make up your mind that it will. And I have decided (after the turbulence of 2009 to which I referred in my pre-Christmas offering) that 2010 will not just be a ‘getting better’ year, but a spectacularly good year. So there.

‘What planet is he on?’ I hear you ask. And I can well understand why you might say that. But do not imagine for a moment that I am alone in this isolated parallel universe that I inhabit. Not a bit of it. Who could ever forget Alistair Darling prefacing his recent budget speech by making the comment that ‘we start from a position of strength’. (Thank goodness for that, Alistair – I thought for a minute that we were in some kind of economic trouble. Clearly, I was mistaken). Or Barry Cockcroft welcoming the new PDS Plus (Warburton) contract with those immortal words ‘The new dental contract is working well’. (Of course it is Barry. But just not for patients or the profession).

Girls on top
It was a double whammy at the GDC, when general dental practitioner Alison Lockyer topped the poll to become the new GDC chair, and almost simultaneously another Alison (White) was appointed as interim chief executive and registrar, replacing the outgoing Duncan Rudkin.
Alison White is no stranger to either healthcare or senior management, having been chief executive for the National Pharmacy Association.

The GDC’s agenda is huge on a variety of fronts and now, more than ever, it will fulfil its role of protecting patients not by distancing itself from registrants and ignoring the multiple challenges that they are facing from so many other directions, but by carrying the massively expanded profession with it, involving and engaging it and looking for imaginative ways to solve problems, not create them. When the profession feels misunderstood, alienated and marginalised, it tends to react against change, irrespective of the form it takes. Such a massive watershed in the history of the GDC is a potentially destabilising period of great change and challenge – but for the same reasons it can also be a moment of unprecedented opportunity. In my own view, electing a general dental practitioner to the chair at this moment in time was crucially important as a first step. Now, the challenge is to become known and respected as a healthcare regulator whose strength lies in its understanding of the need for common sense and proportionality in its approach, rather than in its ability to wield its sword of power as heavily as possible, as often as possible. We will watch with great interest.

The last post
Cast gold posts and cores are a disappearing artefact of a bygone era (this was already happening as clinical thinking moved on, but this trend accelerated in England and Wales since 2006 and the recent spike in the cost of gold and precious metal did the rest). A clinical procedure to tell your grandchildren about – like dentine pins, sectional silver points and previously-used, low-mileage, one-careful-owner endodontic reamers and files.

2009 may be remembered as the election year that never was, the GDS watershed that never was, and the year when self-regulation died and the GDC changed for ever. But it was also the year when PCTs in England and LHBs in Wales woke up to the scale of the powers that they were given six years ago, and started flexing their muscles and using these powers in earnest. It was the year when the GDS and PDS in these parts of the UK got some Steele in their backbone and charted a revolutionary, innovative and exciting programme of change for the future. If, by any chance, you missed this and want to know the details, Google ‘Bloomfield Report 1992’. It’s all there.

It was also the year in which HIV-infected dentists, hygienists and therapists had something to smile about. The 2009 Beijing Declaration brought the world – and hopefully the UK – closer to a semblance of fairness, justice and honesty in allowing most of these colleagues to continue practising. It is shameful that the evidence base has been conveniently ignored for so long, and desperately sad that the anticipated change in official policy – however welcome – will come too late for many whose professional lives were sacrificed on the altar of uninformed public perception and political expediency. But now we have reached this point, let’s get it done. Full marks to the GDC last year for taking the right position when it mattered.

And let us not forget that 2009 was a year in which dentistry lost many of its most shining stars. Some in their retirement after making massive contributions to our profession, some at the peak of their powers, some emerging into the spotlight with a glittering future ahead of them. We must start a new year and a decade without them, but we will miss them all.

Little boxes
Having received a few complaints in recent weeks, I can only
apologise for not having had any boxes into which to place your Christmas presents. Unfortunately, I was advised late in the day that the entire supply of boxes here in the UK had been requisitioned by the powers that be, as they were needed for ticking purposes. I guess I should have seen that coming. But please note that for compliance and audit purposes you are still required to retain your wrapping paper for a period of 24 months after initial Sellotape removal.

Gift labels and tags must be shredded or incinerated to comply with Data Protection requirements and to protect against identity theft. After 2009, some in UK dentistry probably wish they were someone else, but that’s not quite the same thing.

Let’s all hope for a brighter and better 2010.

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