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“A Harley Street dental surgeon stared danger in the mouth when he operated on a tiger's teeth.”
Amir, a nine-year-old rare Sumatran tiger, needed fillings on three chipped front teeth to prevent any future pain. He was treated at the on-site hospital in Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent. The description implied that he needed root treatment, as it made the point that it was a difficult procedure because the root could be six times longer in a tiger than a human. Ben Warren, head of the carnivore section at the park, near Canterbury, said: "Although the broken teeth weren't causing him any discomfort, we knew that a filling would be the best course of action to prevent any deterioration."
I’m feeling that there are analogies in this story concerning the state of the profession itself. News has broken that dentists have further taken their registration body to task, with a 97 per cent vote of no confidence. By doing this, they are looking directly into the tiger’s mouth as this is the body with teeth!
LDC special meetings
More than 200 dentists and dental professionals from England’s Local Dental Committees attended the event in London to register their discontent at the actions of the General Dental Council (GDC). The motion that “this conference believes the GDC has failed in its role as the regulator for dentistry in its current model and demands a reformation of the GDC that will protect patients and re-establish the support of the dental profession" was passed unanimously.
A similar result came out of an LDC meeting in Wales. Whilst in Scotland the LDCs went one further with a motion for the country to have it’s own registration body separate to England and Wales.
Debate in Parliament
On Tuesday, there was a debate in Westminster Hall concerning the forthcoming fee-rise. It is interesting to note that even The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr Daniel Poulter) speaking on behalf of the government, said:
“While the General Dental Council has consulted its registrants on the proposed fee rise, I am aware of, and sympathetic to, a strong body of opinion among its registrants that they are yet to be presented with compelling evidence to justify such an unprecedented fee increase. The proposed fee is more than double the £390 that the General Medical Council requires licensed doctors to pay. That is why, when I met the GDC, I raised concerns about the fee increase and reconfirmed the Government’s position on the need for a strong and transparent case for any such increase.
The GDC stated to me as justification for its fee rise that there has been a 110 per cent increase in the number of complaints from patients, employers, other registrants and the police about the dental profession, and that the cost of handling such complaints has been the key driver of the increase. However, I have not been presented with what I consider to be compelling evidence that a fee rise of that magnitude is justified by a 110 per cent increase in the number of complaints.
It is worth noting that other health care regulators, as my hon. Friend suggested, have experienced increases in complaints but have not felt compelled to raise their fees to the same extent. I therefore understand why the British Dental Association has chosen to test this decision and issued judicial review proceedings challenging the setting of the fee. The hearing is set to take place next week, so I am sure that hon. Members will understand that it is inappropriate for me to comment further on those proceedings.”
I don’t usually read Hansard for personal pleasure, so don’t think I’m as boring as those who sit in Westminster, but I have quoted the Minister’ answer in full as I feel that it makes the point that the GDC has not got full support.
However, the GDC are not just sitting back and taking the flack, they are speaking ‘fighting talk! A spokesman for the General Dental Council criticised local dental committees for taking such drastic action. A spokesperson said they were disappointed that the LDC’s had chosen to go down this route. "This unfounded and inflammatory stance will do nothing but worry patients unnecessarily," he said. The GDC says it is anxious to engage constructively with the dental profession to understand more about the causes of complaints and to do what can be done to stop them arising in the first place. "The key function of the GDC is patient protection. Patients expect dental treatment to be conducted in a safe environment and by a trained professional, and if they have a concern about that dental treatment that the GDC will investigate it quickly and efficiently."
The tenor of each statement they issue is to ignore the concerns of the profession and forge on without it’s support. The fight will culminate this year with the High Court action by the British Dental Association (BDA) on 15th December. Either the GDC will have broken all opposition or the GDC will be forced to re-think their whole strategy for guiding the profession through a difficult time.
Through all this, we have a responsibility to our patients. Despite all the battles going on around us, and all the shouting and power-play, we need to take professional approach to practice and give of our best when it comes to patient care.
Tiger’s Eye Stone is a beautiful quartz crystal with lovely bands of yellow-golden color through it. If you look this up, the spiritual significance of this crystal is “as a powerful stone that aids harmony and balance, and helps you to release fear and anxiety”.
Maybe we should stop looking in the tiger’s mouth and look the tiger in the eye instead!!
Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor