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10th January 2014

Are we ‘Unfit for Purpose’?

Businessman sinking in heap of documentsFor anyone unaware, more than 100 family dentists have signed a letter to the Telegraph which accuses Ministers of hiding the “rotten truth” about the “compromised and mismanaged” system of state-funded dental treatment in England. They say NHS dentistry is “unfit for purpose” as a result of successive Governments’ obsession with centralised targets at the cost of allowing professionals to spend enough time with patients.

The general gist is that paperwork and financial limitations are making it impossible for NHS practitioners to provide a clinically sound and safe service.  More, they have accused the government, and presumably the Chief Dental Officer as the government’s representative, of manipulating the figures to avoid this being highlighted.

Tooth decay in Children

The signatories highlight findings that tooth decay is the third most common reason for a child to be admitted to hospital and that nearly half of all adults suffer from serious gum problems.  The letter is in response to the concerns about patient care highlighted by the Francis Report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, and fear it is now “inevitable” that NHS dentistry will experience a disastrous breakdown in care comparable to the mismanagement found at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.

Our responsibilities.

The bottom line is that we have certain professional responsibilities.  However difficult practice life becomes these tenets have priority.  For instance, General Dental Council guidelines state -

  • You must put patients’ interests before your own or those of any colleague, business or organisation.
  • You must always put your patients’ interests before any financial, personal or other gain.

Basically, this is saying that the service we (you) provide has to be ‘fit for purpose’ however onerous this might be.

Further, the General Dental Services says that (as quoted on the Department of Health public website) –

  • You cannot refuse any treatment available on the NHS but then offer the same treatment privately.
  • Any treatment provided on the NHS has to be of the same high quality as treatments provided privately.

On top of all this, we have to spend more and more time keeping up to date with Regulatory change and CQC Compliance.

So how do we do this?

First option is taking the plunge and opt to provide only Private care.  For many this is a difficult decision, either ethically or because it’s seen as a risky business decision.  Next option is to keep providing good care, but take a drop in income.  Final option is to quit dentistry and work down the ‘chippy’.

There is another choice and that is to ‘box clever’.  Use whatever means possible to reduce time spent on CQC compliance, looking after staff and spend more time on real dentistry.  Using CQC management systems – such as that of QCS – releases huge amounts of clinical time.  Other tips are  -

  • Concentrate on clinical need, not on targets.  When you do this, the targets tend to look after themselves.
  • Acquire valuable CPD hours in training for non-NHS treatments that can be sold on.  Be the best at ‘facial aesthetics’ and practice the latest whitening techniques.
  • Do the same for Endodontics, there are some amazingly quick systems now that make molar endo a more viable financial proposition.

Above all else, have a respect for those people that come to see us and trust us – give them the best that you can do.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

John Shapter

Dental Specialist

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