John Milne’s verdict…one year on

John MilneLittle progress has been made on three key issues facing dentists in the 12 months since pleas were made to a health minister.

That is the downbeat verdict of the British Dental Association, one year after it took its concerns to the Conservative party conference, holding face-to-face talks with Dan Poulter.

Dr John Milne, the chairman of the BDA’s general practice committee, urged action on three issues – fitness to practise cases, poor electronic record keeping and the promised new dentists’ contract.

Twelve months on, Dr Milne gave the following progress reports to Dentistry.

Fitness to practise cases referred to the General Dental Council (GDC)

Dr Milne said the BDA remained concerned that the GDC was failing to ‘separate out everyday complaints from real concerns on fitness to practise’.

He said: ‘It should be encouraging local resolution where appropriate and ensuring that cases should only be referred to fitness to practise when there is a clear issue of patient safety.

‘That way we can ensure neither dentists nor patients are left in limbo.

‘And it needs to be open with the profession.

‘During its recent fees consultation, we saw no credible information to back up the projections on the number of complaints it will receive in 2014 and 2015.

‘To date, there has been no disclosure on the complaints received in 2014.

‘The GDC needs to get its house in order, rather than expecting dentists to pour more of their money into a broken system.’

Poor electronic record keeping

Last year, Mr Poulter was told patients’ health was being put at risk as £1bn was set aside to deliver digital records for GPs – while dentistry, plus pharmacy and optometry, were left in the IT slow lane.

Dr Milne said: ‘There’s been no progress with electronic record sharing.

‘We’ve heard a lot of talk from all the parties about a joined up approach to health and social care, but there’s not even the will to invest in decent IT for dentists, let alone an integrated system.

‘And, with tooth decay now the leading cause of hospital admissions among children, investing in effective record keeping is simple common sense.’

The timetable for introducing the new dentists’ contract 

The Coalition Agreement – struck between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, in May 2010 – pledged it would be introduced by next May’s general election.

The document states the contract would ‘focus on achieving good dental health and increasing access to NHS dentistry, with an additional focus on improving the oral health of schoolchildren’.

But Dr Milne said: ‘A timetable for contract reform implementation will depend on how the prototypes go, so it’s likely to be some time before it’s rolled out.

‘The GDPC (General Dental Practice Committee) is now working constructively with the department of health, which is designing the prototypes.

‘It is important that the prototypes are workable and demonstrate that a reformed contract can both improve oral health and enable practices to thrive.’

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