The blame game rarely leads to solutions.
The ARF (annual retention fee) hike shows that the GDC (General Dental Council) has not addressed the root causes of the multiple issues it faces. The issues will only go away if value is created for both the public and the profession. We are interested in keeping our registration and indemnity fees as low as possible, the regulator has a duty to protect the public. The GDC and the profession has taken a position and the only way to resolve this will be for both parties to sit at the table and to express their underlying interests.
The GDC tells us that it cannot cope with the deluge of complaints about registrants, yet it went out to invite more with the Daily Telegraph ad, with a call to the public to get in touch if 'not completely satisfied'! That feels akin to drilling a bigger hole in your sinking cruise liner and making a deliberate decision to take your entire crew down with you (ie the profession) instead of finding a temporary plug whilst figuring out how to get everyone, including the guests (the public), home and dry safely.
We, on the other hand, are telling the GDC that it is 'unfair' to pass its spiralling costs to us in the profession, and ludicrous to destroy the very trust that the public need to have in us for them to visit the dentist. We are complaining about the growing hole in the ship, but we need to find a way to plug it fast.
This is all supposedly about spiralling costs and I could go into the GDCs rents etc, but that would be playing the blame game. I tend to prefer to look for solutions. The GDC has a duty to weed out poor practice, but there should be a whole series of roadblocks before a complaint actually escalates to the GDC. If there was nothing to complain about there would be no fitness to practice panels, now there's a nice thought. It would appear that its early resolution system is not effective – perhaps we should explore new ways to put these roadblocks in ourselves as a profession.
- Can we counter the negative press we get from the Daily Mail and now the GDC by putting out our own positive press out to the public to gain their trust?
- Can we show the public that we care by actively getting out into our local communities and 'co-creating' dental services of the future?
- Can we take a stand against NHS payment mechanisms shaping the underlying culture in dentistry, or is this impossible because it needs an unachievable number of dental professionals engaged to reach a tipping point?
- Can we supply robust financial data to address the elephant in the room – the £24 UDA (units of dental activity), which has the potential to drive undesirable behaviours from a viability/profitability standpoint, for those who do not have the bandwidth or skills to subsidise their NHS provision through private care provision?
- Could we improve access to mentoring schemes within the profession, to help those who are gaming, struggling or providing poor quality work to step up their skills and their confidence around providing better care? Heart Your Smile offers a mentoring service that anyone can participate in
- Can we get more representation from the profession on the board at the GDC in order to help it see that it would be far more cost-effective to resolve everyone’s underlying interests within the context of their rights and the power they wield?
I don’t think one person has the answers, but I do think we need to keep asking questions and working on innovative solutions collectively. The profession and the GDC need to sit at the table, identify the root cause, and design effective risk management and support strategies by engaging peer pressure and wider mechanisms for support in order to dilute the more punitive approaches currently taken.
Above all, the GDC and the profession should unite to refocus all efforts on restoring and promoting trust in the profession, if it is to protect the public’s interest. This gives patients access to oral healthcare and holistic healthcare advice. This is why I joined the board at Heart Your Smile. If we cannot rely on others to promote the value we bring as a profession, we have to do it ourselves.
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