The voice of dentistry in Westminster

The Core > Company and Industry News > The voice of dentistry in Westminster

Published: 21/09/2021

By Catherine Rutland, Clincal Director

 

 

It’s been just over six months since our white paper as published, which has generated a lot of discussion and interest in Westminster. Since that time, comments by the now former Minister for Public Health, Jo Churchill MP, caused a great deal of controversy within the dental profession when she stated publicly that dental practices only play an ‘ad hoc’ role in the detection of oral cancers.

 

Naturally, many in the dental profession, including myself, were disappointed in the minister’s comments but also alarmed at the apparent lack of understanding and knowledge of dentistry held amongst policy makers in Whitehall and elsewhere. But it also highlighted a key theme from the research in our The Future of Dentistry white paper – that dentists feel policy makers don’t understand the work they do as a profession and the profession’s isolation from wider public health discussions.

 

In the white paper we discovered that most dentists we surveyed expressed concerns about the government’s understanding of, responsiveness to, and support for the private and mixed dental sector1. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic unclear official guidance from CDOs, poor communication of information about re-openings and overly burdensome fallow time regulations – all contributed to mixed and private dental practices being unable to see many of their patients for fear of falling afoul of unclear regulations set by the CDOs.

 

These failures in communication from regulators stem from the lack of understanding on the part of policy makers who view any dental practice carrying out a General Dental Services contract – no matter how small – as requiring the same level of regulation as fully NHS practices. It demonstrates how poor understanding can lead to poor outcomes for dental practices and the public’s oral health alike.

 

Into this environment enters the Department for Health & Social Care’s Integration & Innovation white paper. The white paper envisions a more integrated health system based around Integrated Care Systems (ICUs), the wider adoption of digital technology in healthcare – from telemedicine to wearable health monitoring tech – and a greater emphasis on preventive healthcare building upon the 2019 prevention green paper2.

 

Recently, Government Ministers have spoken of their ambition to see dental practices performing a greater role in preventive health through practices delivering a wider array of services, such as, monitoring of chronic health conditions like diabetes, early diagnosis of conditions such as mouth cancer and the dispensation of general health advice3. However, without further detail and clarity from government, dentists risk being isolated and underutilised as they have been in previous public health reform initiatives. And of course, there is always the question of how this would be remunerated.

 

Therefore, it is vitally important that Denplan has a voice in these discussions and seeks to shape how public policy impacts our member dentists. I’ve always seen it as a vital part of our role to support our members, by putting the issues we face in the dental profession to the forefront of the political agenda – by being an active participant and not a passive observer.

 

That is why, over the last several months, I have been reaching out to and working with Members of Parliament and policy makers to give voice to our member dentists.

 

In discussions with MPs I have raised the issues impacting mixed and private dental practices. Such as, fallow time restrictions, the costs of PPE procurement for practices and patients, and the vital role dentists perform in early identification of diseases such as mouth cancers and managing chronic conditions.

 

Denplan continues to push Westminster to address the issues impacting our profession and practices. As the recent controversy over Jo Churchill’s ‘ad hoc’ comments (and subsequent apology and backtracking) illustrate, Denplan’s message on the role of mixed and private dentistry is having impact in the corridors of powers. 

 

Denplan’s full white paper can be downloaded from the original article.

 

 

  1. Denplan, The Future of Dentistry, April 2021
  2. DHSC, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. London: Department for Health & Social Care, 2019, ISBN 978-1-5286-1545-7
  3. Hansard, Covid-19: dental services. Jan 2021. Online information available at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-01-14/debates/15169201-A026-433C-9105-D5007E11CF88/Covid-19DentalServices (Accessed: Jan 2021)