Bad workmen blame their tools

'Bad workmen blame their tools'. I was reminded of this favourite saying by my father (and many other fathers) 60 years ago, when I read the letter in The Telegraph from Anthony Kilcoyne and 100 others, which was reported on this website. I fear I am in a minority of one or two in being a sceptic. Most posters on GDPUK, where it was initiated, fully support the letter.

Most also blame the General Dental Service contract and Units of Dental Activity (UDA's) and some dentists’ inability to meet their targets in this respect. The implication is that if you can achieve your UDA target you must in some way be ‘gaming’ or cheating to give it its proper name.

The statement that ‘it is frankly impossible’ to deliver ‘all dental clinical health needs’ and ‘to the highest standards’ is an opinion of the author and signatories, not a proven fact. It is a slur on those hard-working NHS dentists who provide a good and ethical service to their patients and meet their UDA and other targets.

It is NHS England’s job to commission services through contracts, which they then monitor for compliance. It is the dentists’ responsibility to so manage their time that they can deliver improvements in oral health for their patients. It is all too easy to blame the contract and the UDA's, which are only the ‘tools’ if you are a ‘bad workman’.

The other problem I have with the letter is one of the trust that patients have in their dentist. They have more trust in their dentist than their GP according to a recent survey. As a profession we come way above politicians, estate agents and journalists. Our patients know that the NHS cannot provide everything, but they do expect to be offered for all their ‘dental clinical health needs’ to be met and to be of the highest standards.

The fact that most patients are loyal to their dentist speaks of their trust in him or her. Were I still in practice I would resent a group of self-opinionated dental professionals telling my patients that they couldn’t trust me to do a good job and act ethically while meeting the NHS’s targets.

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