The General Dental Council’s (GDC) new guidance Standards for the Dental Team was agreed at its meeting on 20 June.
It will come into effect on 30 September, giving it time to be communicated in full to both registrants and the public.
The new guidance has been two and a half years in preparation.
This revision has had to take into account the GDC’s earlier decision to allow direct access to DCPs. As a consequence, the previous requirement that all patients should be seen by a dentist first has been removed. The guidance on scope of practice of DCPs published on 1 May is incorporated.
Registrants are now required to explain their role to patients and how this affects the treatment they will receive.
The guidance is also affected by the findings of the Francis report, which put patients’ interests first, something that appeared in the previous version of the standards.
What is new in this revision is a requirement that ‘those who employ, manage or lead a team must encourage and support a culture where staff can raise concerns openly and without fear of reprisal'. The guidance also outlaws ‘gagging clauses’ in employment contracts, where patient safety is concerned.
Communication and trust lie at the heart of the new guidance. Consent must mean that the patient is given, prior to the start of treatment, information on costs, as well as making it clear whether treatment is being provided under the NHS, or on a private basis. There is also specific guidance on not pressurising patients into receiving private treatment if it is available on the NHS.
Patients expect dental professionals to be honest and to behave with integrity. The importance placed on communication means that registrants must have a good grasp of spoken and written English. There is now greater emphasis on the need to listen to patients, to take their individual preferences into account and to encourage them to ask questions about their care.
Every registrant will now be sent a copy of Standards for the Dental Team and the GDC’s communications plan, ready for implementation at the end of September.
By news correspodent Michael Watson