Dentistry must navigate minefield, says BDA

Dentistry in the UK must navigate a minefield of potential problems if it is to continue to deliver for patients, the chair of the BDA’s executive board warned.

Speaking at the 2012 British Dental Conference and Exhibition, Dr Susie Sanderson said that dental care is facing a series of threats that could undermine patient care in the next few years.

She urged the government to pay close attention to a number of crucial issues and stressed that there must not be a repeat of the chaos of 2006 in England when new PCT structures and commissioning arrangements coincided with the ‘imposition of a new dental contract and a fiasco for practitioners and patients’.

She suggested the government must address both existing and developing challenges, including the transition of commissioning from local to national levels, the development of Local Professional Networks and the need to reinforce the dental public health workforce.

Dr Sanderson also argued that the shift in regulatory practice in recent years risks being counterproductive and that risk assessment now carried a ‘something must be done about it now’ mentality.

She was also critical of the ‘frustratingly slow pace’ of the Department of Health in addressing the profession’s concerns about the HTM 01-05 decontamination guidance, lamenting its inability to act more quickly to address problems in a way that might reassure the profession.

Looking forward to the expected publication in May of the Office of Fair Trading’s report of its inquiry into UK dentistry, Dr Sanderson urged the OFT not to make the mistake of misunderstanding dental care and thinking of it as a commodity, but instead to respect its special and complex nature.

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