When it was announced that dental nurses would join the register as dental care professionals, and belong on a register alongside their dentists, it was a great day for the profession of dentistry. Nurses finally felt valued and the future was bright.
Yet here we are in 2014 with huge problems surrounding the GDC (General Dental Council). The profession is (rightly so) angry and calling for a reform.
For some time we have known that the GDC is struggling to deal with the volume of cases coming through it’s doors, there is a huge backlog and it cannot afford to pay to hear the cases. Therefore, as a result of the consultation it has decided to increase the dentists ARF (annual retention fee) by 64%. This is just absurd. If my dermatologist increased her fee by 64% I would not go back, and I guess she would be out of business too! This is my concern with the GDC – it has not been run like a business, which it is.
A business would have a clear financial plan, and employ the right people to do the job. The GDC has decided to invest in the building and the development of this, which is not needed, and the GDC, in my opinion, do not have the right people on the council. This fact alone worries me.
I stress continuously to those who work in the profession, but do come from the grass roots, just how specialised and intricate dentistry is. Dentists are under enormous pressure just to carry out their vocation, they have invested a great deal of time, energy and money into providing the care that they do. I feel the fact that dentists are care providers is often forgotten. The GDC needs to have more dentists on the council, those who really understand the stresses and details of providing such advanced care. They are the only ones who can truly say that a patient was not assessed thoroughly, appropriate diagnostic tools were not taken or reviewed successfully or the way in which a case was not treatment planned correctly.
In regards to fitness to practise: I do not understand why the GDC has not planned ahead for changes to the modern day world. If litigation is so high in the USA, the GDC should have known the number of cases would only keep increasing in the UK and planned as a business for this. We are seeing more dental nurses and other DCPs (dental care professionals) in fitness to practise hearings, and of course the illegal tooth whiteners.
It is clear to see that, although allowing the dental nurses to join the register was great for the profession, in my eyes it was an act of greed – how much more money the GDC could turnover. There should be, in my opinion, three more bodies and registers:
- Dental nurses
- Hygienists and therapists.
I know the ARF fee for DCPs is much less, even with the increase, but many practices pay for the dental nurses and hygienists earn four times as much as some nurses who have to pay the ARF themselves.
DCPs should be dealt with elsewhere, the illegal tooth whiteners should be taken to court, not the GDC etc.
This way the GDC only works with patients and dentists, and only deals with the appropriate type of cases.
I know its sole purpose is to protect patients, we all know there are unethical dentists out there, and yes, the public need protecting, but it could be done so differently.
I feel that the CQC (Care Quality Commission)/RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority) should join up with the GDC (what will happen in Wales and Scotland? I hear you say). Just imagine if they did:
- The CQC can ensure that all practices educate patients on how to complain, as it is already meant to be doing (happy patients usually do not know how to complain by the way)
- The CQC/RQIA must ensure all staff are trained on how to handle a compliant
- They could ensure that all complaints go through the practice first of all
- If a resolution is not met over a period of time then the case goes to the GDC.
I strongly feel that the GDC should be used a last resort or for gross misconduct – the lines need to be drawn. I am sure the GDC loves the corporates as they deal with all of its complaints, so few make it to the GDC – why can it not be the same for the private practitioner? Why should the independent dentists be worse off?
The advert that was placed in the Daily Telegraph was anti private practice. Besides the fact it was unethical, cost a reported £5,000, and was misleading for patients, I have to ask: if you have a dental practice that is struggling to convert patients, why market for more as this only ensures one result – you are wasting money on advertising?
That is what the GDC has done but with money that isn't its own to spend. That money was meant to protect patients not entice more complaints, and the wrong type of complaints (you know the ones that are causing this huge backlog), when it has not created a successful system to deal with the ones it has in the first place.
There are many other things that niggle at me, such as non-verifiable CPD (continuous professional development) (but luckily that will be changing) and how easy it is to provide verifiable CPD – I gave my two pence worth to the consultation on those areas too.
I am in favour of a GDC reform.
This is where I think it should start:
- Clear financial planning
- Re-organisation of the council to reduce lay people
- Revising the complaints procedure so it is the last resort for a complaint.
Tell us today how the General Dental Council should be reformed.
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