Can health professionals trust the regulators?

Last week’s health news was dominated by debacle engulfing the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Opinions voiced about the alleged conduct of the previous management team, under Cynthia Bower, echo those voiced by dentists during her regime.

The question asked by commentators and politicians alike is whether patients can trust the regulators to supervise the actions of health professionals and of managers.

Without wanting to play down the importance on this question, I approach it from a different angle.

Can health professionals trust the regulators? Are inspections looking for the right thing or are they just box-ticking exercises? Are the inspectors knowledgeable and competent enough to do their job.

I should note at this stage since the CQC started bringing dentists into their processes, the number of complaints appears to have reduced. The BDA deserves some credit for this change of approach.

There was, however, another health story last week of particular interest to dentists. Our own General Dental Council (GDC) agreed a new set of standards for the whole dental team. Every dentist and DCP will have their own hard copy of these and can make their own mind up about whether they are reasonable and workable.

The paper introducing these standards is an impressive 95 pages in length. The research that went into it detailed and wide-ranging. The working party, composed of dentists, DCPs and lay people, has produced a serious piece of work.

But how much confidence do dentists have in their ability to set such standards? How much trust do we have in those who wrote and agreed them? There are a lot of things you must do and others you should do. If you don’t, you could find that your registration is in peril.

The lesson of the CQC as far as the profession is concerned is that it was never trusted by the professionals it regulated. Once the dental standards are in place, there will be a Council of only 12, chaired by a lay person with no experience of dentistry. Will it have the confidence and trust of the profession?


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