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New Joined-up Thinking
They say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. The term ‘designed by a committee’ has been frequently used to define processes produced as a result of having to compromise between the requirements and viewpoints of numerous parties, leading to needless complexity, internal inconsistency and logical flaws. Many within the dental profession are of the opinion that dental regulation has many of these characteristics.
In order to mitigate the negative impact of a range of dental regulators, each with their own agendas and areas of responsibility creating disjointed and contradictory regulation, the Care Quality Commission, NHS England, the Department of Health and the General Dental Council have united to form The Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board. With the support of Healthwatch England and the NHS Business Services Authority they have taken a view of Dental Regulation and in December 2015 they published a report with clear objectives and deadlines for the development of ‘joined-up’ regulation for the dental profession.
The report opens by acknowledging that ‘in health terms dentistry is a great success’ and goes on to recognise that:
- There is an ongoing need for the profession to address significant challenges resulting from changing patients’ needs.
- Dentists feel over regulated. A dentist might find themselves being investigated by the GDC who are concerned about fitness to practice, the CQC who are concerned about safety and quality and the NHS who are concerned about their regulations. As a result there is wasteful duplication and excessive stress for those whose performance may be of concern. The regulators have now united to discuss how the burden of regulation in dentistry might be reduced, whilst providing the protection that the public expects.
Their report can be found at: www.cqc.org.uk/content/future-dental-service-regulation
To address the points listed above, after running consultation events in which the views of the professionals and public were consulted, they agreed the following ambitious action areas and deadlines:
- By October 2016. Define respective roles and responsibilities within the system. A joint working protocol should be developed and monitored between GDC/NHS England/CQC, with clear thresholds so that everyone in the system understands their roles and responsibilities.
- By April 2016. Define a clear model for the system of dental regulation that ensures strategic/national alignment with local partnership working. This model should outline a clear framework for risk assessment/methodology- by April 2017.
- By April 2016. Improve data and information/intelligence sharing, including pro-actively, to plan inspection programmes and share learning. Establish data sharing agreement with a longer term plan to establish a central source of information for the repository of data and data sharing- by October 2017.
- By October 2016. Defined system with recognised roles for complaints handling, supported by clear signposting processes.
- By October 2016. Define the system and process for quality improvement in the dental sector and the role of key stakeholders in improvement.
- By July 2016. Develop a system and process for proactive regular joined up conversations across the sector, supported by a clear communication plan.
- By October 2016. Develop a proactive and regular approach to keeping patients informed and involved in the quality of dental services.
With this in mind, 2016 will be a significant year for regulatory developments, which we shall await with interest.