This could be the worst time in living memory to be a general dental practitioner in England. That’s the view expressed by Dr Susie Sanderson, chair of the British Dental Association’s (BDA) Executive Board, in a new blog for the BDA website. She says: ‘That isn’t a statement I make lightly or happily, but sadly it is one I make fairly confidently.’
The blog sees Dr Sanderson argue that a combination of factors, including the continued existence of the flawed 2006 dental contract, an overblown system of regulation, threats to NHS pensions and the intention of government to bar new entrants to the seniority pay scheme, is making dentists’ jobs increasingly difficult and leading to declining morale.
Nonetheless, she argues, ‘there are reasons for optimism of course’. These include a better contract that it is hoped will emerge from the pilots launched last month and the potential for more consistent commissioning as a result of the transfer of commissioning responsibilities from Primary Care Trusts to a National Commissioning Board.
She also addresses the question of professional standards and patient satisfaction. Citing both the feedback dentists receive in their practices and the findings of the recent Adult Dental Health Survey, she argues that patients, who are the reason dentists do what they do, continue to value highly the care they receive.
She warns though that high professional standards are vital to maintaining that patient trust and the status of dentists as professionals worthy of the trust placed in them, arguing that practitioners must not let the obstacles being put in their way or their indignation at them allow them to compromise the care they provide: ‘Each time a practitioner takes a short cut they become part of the problem, hurting the reputation of the profession, making it less trusted and inviting more regulation onto us. The individual in that scenario hurts not just their patient and their business, but the profession as a whole.’