New chairman announced at the BDA

Mick Armstrong and I are friends.

Last week he was elected as the chair of the British Dental Association's (BDA) Principal Executive Committee (PEC).

Even though he is now described as the head of the profession, I hope we can still be friends and enjoy a pint and a joke as we always have.

He is a general dental practitioner, in a mostly-NHS practice in Castleford, West Yorkshire.

Like most from this county, he is a down to earth chap who speaks his mind.

He understands the challenges that face dentists in practice, because that is his background.

He was quoted in the BDA press release announcing his election as saying: 'We are increasingly underfunded, but over-regulated,' a sentiment with which many will agree.

He goes on to say that high standards of care are expected by dentists, 'but often the treatment we receive from those that fund and oversee us leaves a great deal to be desired.'

He also said that dentists must assert their professionalism as 'the guiding force by which decisions about dentistry should be made.'

He is determined to lead practitioners 'in doing exactly that.'

When I worked at the BDA, I was often involved in drafting statements like this for chairmen of various committees, it was all too easy for me to lapse into management-speak.

The best of them tore up my words and said what they wanted to say, rather than the ‘party line’.

I urge Mick to do the same and be his own man.

Although I like his words and feel many dentists will endorse his beliefs, there was something absent that I feel he must address.

Yes, he may now be head of the profession, but he is also the elected head of the association.

The BDA has had a torrid nine months, leading up to the effective removal of his predecessor, Martin Fallowfield.

The new membership structure faces a major test when members are asked to renew their membership later this summer.

Will they think they have had a good deal, especially those on the lowest tier of membership?

Many of them are associates, will they think that their interests have been represented in contract negotiations?

In a world increasingly dominated by corporates and owners of large practices, the BDA must represent and be seen to represent, all dentists, not just practice owners.

Finally on his ‘to-do’ list, he needs to ask the question about how the BDA got into such a muddle over the new structure with the resultant staff redundancies.

There should be an investigation about how it came about and how it can be prevented in the future.

Members have a right to know what happened, and when Mick addresses them at the forthcoming BDA Conference, he could announce just that.

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