The secret dentist – we need radical change – now is the time

The Secret DentistIn the first of a new series, we introduce ‘the secret dentist’ who will cover the topics nobody else wants to talk about. In this first column they explain how the next generation of dentists needs to rise up and force healthcare into radical change.

Everybody complains about ‘NHS dentistry’ but everybody blames somebody else.

Dentistry has never been part of the mainstream NHS since patient charges were first introduced a few years after its inception. It was always delivered by independent practitioners accepting NHS terms of a contract. Initially on a patient by patient basis but now as a bigger fixed contract.

The blame game

NHS England & Improvement (NHSE&I) blame the dentists.

The older NHS dentists blame the NHSE&I and ‘the corporates’.

Associates then blame the principals and vice versa.

The more recently qualified dentists also blame the older generation.

Patients don’t know who to blame. But certainly complain about paying any amount of money whilst receiving a sub-standard service.

Wholly private dentists blame the dentists who ‘prop up the system’ by making it work.

Anybody who isn’t a member of the BDA, and indeed even some who are members, blame the BDA.

Everybody blames everybody in regulation – GDC, CQC, HIW, HIS, HINI.

Worldwide turmoil

The whole world is currently in turmoil, unprecedented since World War II. We are only part way through a pandemic that will affect our lives to a ‘new normal’ unimaginable 12 months ago.

The USA has just gone through probably the most radical four years of its 244-year history. The Russians are quietly trying to poison all its opponents. The Chinese are quietly jailing all its opponents. The UK is getting out of the EU whilst the whole of north Africa appears to be wanting to get in. Radical Islamism is very radical. The Middle East continues to be a tinderbox. Everybody complains that we are killing the planet but, a bit like dentistry, everybody blames everybody else but themselves as the cause.

This is all much worse than a children’s playground at 3.15pm on a school day.

Let’s stick to dentistry for now.

Radical change

Radical change is appropriate and must happen. It is also no longer acceptable to continue to fudge some changes to all the previous fudges. Blue sky thinking, a clean sheet of paper.

All the people above have an opportunity now to stop blaming everybody else and be radical and realistic about how dentistry fits in the world of healthcare.

Something to take into account is the fact that half the population (approximately 33 million people) visit a dentist once or twice per year.

They are ‘programmed’ to have a dental health check, accept some advice and possibly some remedial care.

It doesn’t take a massive leap of faith to put the mouth back in the body – this check, advice, and care could also apply to the whole person.

Instead of the NHS system mainly fixing people when they go wrong, why not build on the unprecedented goodwill built up by the dental profession over the last 50 years?

Instead of dismissing dentists as simply ‘drillers and fillers’ perhaps now is the time for the profession take a proper place in the healthcare system. Commensurate with our knowledge, training and intelligence.

How are we going to achieve radical change?

If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.

A bit like the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. It is time for an unprecedented change in negotiation and more importantly an unprecedented change in those doing the negotiating.

Radical times need radical measures. Consequently, don’t take no for an answer.

I believe that the only people who are capable of effecting this change are the more recently-qualified generation. They must then rise up, together, and force the current negotiators to change tack.

The future is about the young, not the old.

Network. Post on social media. Think outside the box. Propose radical changes. Leave no stone unturned. Out with the old, in with the new.

All whilst staying true to the fact that healthcare is a unique business. Based on trust and doing the right thing all the time. Therefore find your voice and unite behind a leader – ‘RadicalDental2021’.

Back next month to discuss our next steps.

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