The call comes as a study predicts a sharp hike in demand for dental therapists in the next 10 years.
But the British Association of Dental Therapists president, Fiona Sandom, warned that for this to work, the profession needs dentists to be ‘open minded and embrace the changes within dentistry’ by developing a multi-skilled dental team and delegating tasks to other members.
The study – from CfWI (Centre for Workforce Intelligence) and published in November – indicates a likely steep increase in demand for dental hygienists, dental therapists, orthodontic therapists and dental nurses in the run up to 2025.
Fiona said: ‘The whole profession needs to work together to ensure that skill mix is utilised and regulation and legislation needs to be amended so all dental care professionals (DCPs) can work to their full.’
She added: ‘There is a danger that skill mix will not be used to its full potential – mainly due to funding.
‘It has been made clear there is no more money in the new contract and, therefore, dentists are going to have to use skill mix to ensure patients do have access to care.
‘If DCPs are going to take on board this treatment, it is vital the regulations allow this.’
In a bid to support this step change, she has already pledged to work towards changing the ‘unfair’ status quo on prescribing rights for dental therapists.
The British Association of Dental Therapists is meeting with the UK’s chief dental officers in the new year to discuss the ‘extremely limiting’ Patient Group Directions, something the association sees as a barrier to dental therapists carrying out their full scope of practice.
Overall, the CfWI research suggests DCPs could provide a significantly greater share of the future dental care workload (between 18-25% more than today) by 2025, provided there is a ‘concerted effort’ from across the system to support further utilisation of the DCP workforce.
Fellow therapist and British Association of Dental Therapists secretary, Mel Prebble, acknowledged the need for all team members to view the delivery of dental care differently.
She explained: ‘It’s important we all understand the parameters of care, create prescriptive, preventive treatment plans and go back to the grass roots of preventive-based practice.
‘It’s also important for practitioners to know and create systems for patients to gain access to dental care via other routes such as direct access, thereby increasing access.’
The CfWI report suggests regular reviews of the demand and supply of the DCP workforce, while considering any system changes (eg: training and local needs) that may affect the balance.
Currently, this prediction of a hike in demand is matched with an undersupply of dental therapists – as well as dental hygienists, and dental nurses.
To improve the quality and robustness of future modelling, the report also suggests a survey of General Dental Council (GDC) registrants to gain more data on participation rates of the DCP workforce.
The research – Securing the future workforce supply: Dental care professionals stocktake (www.cfwi.org.uk, 2014) – was jointly commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and the Department of Health (DH) and forms an evidence base for planning the future DCP workforce.
It builds upon CfWI’s earlier report, A strategic review of the future dentistry workforce: Informing dental student intakes, published by the CfWI in December 2013.
www.cfwi.org.uk/publications/dental-care-professionals-stocktake/@@publication-detail (2014) retrieved 17/12/14