Stop snarling and work together
It’s time for the BDA to see the change the GDC is making, Eddie Scher says.
It’s no secret that dentistry can be an isolating profession.
I hesitate to use the word lonely, because through my career I have been lucky enough to be able to surround myself with great friends and trusted colleagues – though I can nevertheless see how easy it could be to fall prey to that feeling.
I know what it’s like to stand on both sides of the long-running disputes with our regulator, and I can tell you that in many ways, dentistry is perhaps never more isolating than when faced with a fitness to practise investigation.
Were it not for the incredible support from my wife and family; from my practice team and other colleagues, the experience would have been even more frightening and stressful than it was.
Of course, some of this is to be expected: as dentists, we pride ourselves on our independence.
And that’s well and good too, of course – our individuality is what makes dentistry such an exciting, dynamic field to be in, and ultimately what benefits our patients the most.
But just as clinical practice – especially implants – is quickly becoming a team game, so too do I find myself asking whether as a profession we need to do more to encourage that feeling of true community amongst ourselves.
Anyone who accepts referrals, or who sends their patients with complex needs to a trusted clinician away from their own practice, is already halfway to this understanding, I believe.
There is nothing like relying on a network of your peers to realise that we’re all in this together!
But these are, for all extents and purposes, informal agreements – loose associations that are hugely valuable to those few within them, but ultimately doing little to change the wider face of dentistry.
It strikes me that now, more than ever, we need our representative body to speak with the voice of unity.
The British Dental Association has been a force in dentistry for a long time, and in many ways in recent years it seems to have defined itself – to this member at least – by its battling approach to the problems facing dentists.
The legal challenge to the rise in Annual Retention Fees in 2014 was a real sign that the BDA is still prepared to stand up and fight for the good of its members.
But I believe that the landscape has changed since then, and so three years on, my challenge to the BDA is slightly different.
Having experienced first-hand the attempts by the leadership of the General Dental Council to adapt and modernise its regulation of dentistry, I’d like to see the same willingness to adapt from our trade union.
The time is right for the BDA to open constructive negotiations with the GDC – to inform and temper its regulation from a position of partnership, and feed back to its members that change really is happening.
For too long have these two stately organisations crouched on opposing sides of Wimpole Street, baring their teeth at one another.
It’s time to move forward together.
The future of dentistry, and dental regulation, won’t come about overnight, it can’t.
But unless we start working together to build that future, the chances of it happening at all are even more remote.