Last week saw an inquest into the death last year of Yorkshire dentist Dr Anand Kamath. The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide, having heard that Dr Kamath had felt harassed and bullied by his Primary Care Trust. The British Dental Association (BDA) is calling for a full inquiry into the circumstances around his death.
John Milne chair of the GDPC said of it: 'The sad death of Dr Kamath is not the first suicide by a dentist under pressure in this way, but it must be the last.'
He called on the government to look at the general approach of those who oversee primary care dentistry and ensure that they act with regard for ‘the wellbeing of practitioners and ensuring that workloads do not adversely affect practitioners’ health’.
Speaking at the 2012 Conference of LDCs, John Milne said he was ‘appalled’ that some PCTs were challenging perfectly acceptable treatment patterns in an attempt to claw back money, using a veiled threat that practitioners might be referred to the General Dental Council as a stick with which to beat them.
Unfortunately, a culture of bullying seems endemic in the NHS. Some of those who have worked under NHS England boss, Sir David Nicholson, whose retirement was also announced last week, have complained about his bullying managerial style. The Stafford hospital scandal was also blamed in part on bullying by management, anxious to achieve Trust status.
A row is also building up between secretary of state Jeremy Hunt and the GPs, blaming the latter for the current crisis in A&E in hospitals. Their outgoing leader Dr Laurence Buckman (John Milne’s opposite number at the BMA) last week accused the government of denigrating (GPs) and ‘using the NHS as a political weapon’.
PCTs went on 31 March and were replaced by NHS England, which now commissions all NHS dentistry. But many of those who were in PCTs now monitoring dentistry as part of Area Teams. With bullying starting at the top, dentists can have few grounds for optimism that there will be an improvement.
By Michael Watson, Dentistry news correspondent