Cheap foreign lab work could prove costly

Dentists who slash costs by outsourcing their lab work abroad could find that cutbacks like this have a hidden price.

That’s the message from the General Dental Council (GDC) that warns of practices risking legal wrangles if laboratory work carried out overseas goes wrong.

The GDC argues that dentists who commission technical work from laboratories outside the UK – and which do not meet the standards set by the Medical Devices Directive (MDD) – are in danger of being solely culpable if mistakes are made.

From August, registration of dental care professionals becomes mandatory and all technical work in the UK must be undertaken in a laboratory that employs technicians registered with the GDC.

Additionally, all labs must be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The good news is that regulation of European laboratories is also being strengthened, but the key concern remains with labs outside the European Union.

Currently, the only guarantee is via a third party, the laboratory’s ‘authorised representative’ in the UK, that is supposed to be responsible for ensuring that the manufacturer complies with the MDD.

But the GDC feels this fails to deliver enough reassurance for dental patients here.

At the December meeting of the GDC, Chief Executive, Duncan Rudkin, said that if a dentist had not taken the appropriate steps to ensure that work coming in from overseas was of appropriate quality, there would be no-one else to take responsibility.

Currently only 1250 technicians out of a possible 10,000 in the UK have registered with the GDC and there are worries about bringing so many on board in the next six months.

Richard Daniels, Chief Executive of the Dental Laboratories Association, believes that clearer communications policy being pursued by the GDC may encourage more technicians to register.

One outstanding issue remains which is the need to clarify the position on dental laboratory process workers or lab assistants, who, as the law stands do not have to be registered.

He is optimistic that the lines which are currently ‘fuzzy’ would be more clearly drawn.

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