Red tape on hold for dentists

Providers of primary dental services in England will not initially be subject to licensing by Monitor, a government consultation suggests.
The proposal is outlined in a Department of Health consultation paper Protecting and promoting patients' interests – licensing providers of NHS services, and considers:
• Who will be licensed by Monitor
• How licensing will operate
• And the financial penalties that Monitor will be able to impose for breaches of its licensing conditions.
It says providers of primary medical services and primary dental services under contract with the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) would initially be exempt from the requirement to hold a licence, but would be expected to meet similar requirements with oversight by the NHSCB.
The suggestion follows extensive lobbying by the British Dental Association. The BDA argues dentistry is already heavily regulated and that it would be inappropriate for Monitor's licensing arrangements to be
extended to dentists.
Dr John Milne, chair of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘Dentistry is already subject to extensive regulation. Adding another, unnecessary layer to the many that already sit across our practices would
serve only to tie dentistry up in even more red tape. That's why the BDA has lobbied hard against the possibility of Monitor licensing dental practice.
‘We are pleased to see that our campaigning appears to have borne fruit and welcome today's proposal that primary care dentistry will not be subjected to Monitor's regime. This is a sensible recommendation and good news for dental practice.’
Ministers believe the NHS Commissioning Board is well placed to enforce standards equivalent to those included in Monitor's standard licence conditions and will be under obligations to protect patient choice, prevent anti-competitive conduct and enable integration.
But the document adds: ‘In line with this, we would also expect the Board to act on any recommendations that Monitor might make in relation to alleged failures to meet those obligations, which could include requiring action by GP or dental practices where appropriate.’
While it appears dentists have an initial reprieve, the issue looks set to be examined in more detail from 2015.
The consultation document says: ‘We are recommending that providers of primary medical and dental services should initially be exempt from the requirement to hold a licence. However when the Government carries out its proposed review, during the next Parliament, of how the licensing regime is operating, it will consider this aspect specifically. It may be that in the light of that review, it would be appropriate to license providers of primary medical and dental services in future.’
The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed the proposal that providers of primary dental services in England will not be subject to licensing by Monitor. The proposal, which is outlined in a Department of Health consultation published yesterday (15 August), follows extensive lobbying by the BDA.
The BDA has made the case against the need for Monitor to license dentistry since the possibility was raised by the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill in 2010. BDA campaigning has stressed to politicians and the Department of Health the extensive regulatory regime to which primary care dentistry is already subjected, and has seen BDA officers regularly pressing for confirmation that Monitor’s regime would not be applied to the sector.
The BDA will also be submitting a formal response to the consultation.

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