Dentistry horizon scanning exercise

In order for the GDC to carry out our role safely and effectively, it’s important twe don’t just look at the issues that are immediately affecting the way we regulate dental professionals.

Instead, we need to have a comprehensive overview of the dental sector as a whole in order to ensure that we consider the issues affecting dentistry and the healthcare sector more widely and use this information to inform our work.

To facilitate this we recently carried out a horizon scanning exercise of dentistry to help identify the key issues that are expected to affect dental regulation over the next decade.

The exercise is the first of its kind that we have carried out, and there were three main aspects to this research; the first of which was a structured questionnaire which was completed by selected GDC staff, such as those within the Policy department.

A separate structured questionnaire was also circulated to key stakeholders in the dental sector. These ranged from parliamentarians on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, professional associations, defence organisations, and educational bodies.

The final part of the exercise was a facilitated, day long workshop which was attended by members of the GDC’s Policy Advisory Committee, the Chair and Chief Executive and the four Chief Dental Officers for the UK.

Other research that the GDC has previously carried out into areas such as direct access was also used to inform the exercise.

All of this research showed us that demographic changes, technological developments and changes to the structures of the NHS will all impact on how the GDC regulates dental professionals in the future. Other key drivers are the on-going changes to health service provision throughout the UK and EU which we will need to proactively monitor. We also looked at the impact of changes to the nature of dental provision, including the possibility of greater corporatisation.

The changes to consumer and patient expectations about dentistry will also be a major influence on how we work, such as the increasing demand for cosmetic dental treatment and the use of social media by patients to express views about dental care they have received.

Demographic and social changes which affect the type of dental care that is provided in the UK will also influence our work.  

For example the number of people aged over 85 is expected to increase from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1.9 million by 2020. A population with a higher number of older people is expected to result in dental care being provided in different settings, such as residential care settings and in the patient’s own home. It’s important that we consider how to ensure that an increasing number of older people receiving dental care in these settings are able to raise concerns.

We will continue to carry out horizon scanning exercises on an annual basis to see the changing issues that will impact on our work in the future and feed this knowledge into our policy development work.

You can read the full report on the GDC website

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