Who’s to blame?


Michael Watson questions whether the blame game is really helping dentistry

Who is to blame for the faults in dentistry, Michael Watson questions.

I listened to a Radio 4 programme last week, entitled ‘The Blame Game’ led by former MI5 chief, Eliza Manningham-Buller.

She was director general of MI5 from 2002 to 2007 and talked to people working in environments where it seems that someone must always be to blame.

Hers was not an argument against holding people to account – criminal negligence and serious culpability must be exposed, scrutinised and punished, she said – but it was an attempt to understand how to hold people responsible ‘while avoiding fruitless witch hunts’.


This brings to mind the General Dental Council’s (GDC) attitude towards dentists.

A complaint has been made – well actually over 3,000 of them – so someone (a dentist) must be to blame.

The GDC reckons it is its job to find fault, find out who is to blame, and conduct what, in many cases, can only be described as a witch hunt.

Of course what the GDC investigates is whether the accused dentist has followed the standards laid down by them.

The questions that arise are:

  1. If the dentist did not adhere to the standards, did that give rise to the complaint and
  2. If the dentist had adhered to the standards, would that have prevented the complaint?

Who’s to blame?

But it is not just the GDC that wants to apportion blame.

Take the issue of too many children needing extractions.

Whose fault is this?

Is it the parents for stuffing their kids’ mouths full of sugar-laden food and drink?

Or is it their fault for not taking them to the dentist?

Is it the fault of the government for not having a strategy for prevention (which incidentally they have)?

Is it the fault of local authorities whose remit now includes public health?

Or is it the fault of the UDA contract?

The dentistry blame game

Perhaps though we should look at ourselves.

Is it dentists’ fault that children are not seen early enough?

Is it our fault that, with some notable exceptions, we don’t take prevention out into the community?

Is it our fault for not seeing children, but concentrating on fancy work for adults?

It is time to stop this blame game in dentistry and start developing a strategy for making our patients healthier?

One comment

  1. 1

    Yes Michael it’s an unhealthy approach this blame-game tactics, but the FAULT for this approach lies squarely at HMGs feet, as shown by the Junior Doctors debacle of imposing and experimental contract, same in Dentistry in 2006 and ignoring the cross-party Health Select Committee in 2008 saying UDA targets are bad for patients and must change, but we got perpetual Pilots and no change instead !!!

    As you know I have outlined not just the ongoing problems, but an effective 1,2,3 point plan in the latest Dentistry magazine this May!

    Reducing dental casualties and saving many £££millions in dentistry and £££Billions in the wider nhs too, in the next decade alone !!!

    However we have Ministers and Politicians who like to impose then take NO RESPONSIBILITY when it doesn’t work, so blame the workers or anyone else, it seems.

    Thank goodness the Airline industry doesn’t take this myopic approach – as Sir Robert Francis of the mid-Staffordshire inquiry into unecessary nhs deaths there once said, if the NHS ran an airline then planes would be falling out of the sky EVERY day 😮

    It’s time to change adversarial attitudes centrally as the FIRST step to reducing the blame-game.

    Yours clearly,


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