|Dentistry facing “fundamental change” – Professor Jimmy Steele
A MAJOR debate on the new dental contract with leading figures in the dental profession will kick off this year’s largest ever Dentistry Show when it returns to the NEC Birmingham on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st.
More than 6,000 dental professionals from practice teams across the UK are expected to attend the show this month which has introduced three new education streams & a host of hands-on workshops and hosting its biggest ever exhibition floor with over 380 trade suppliers.
The panel discussion on dental contract reforms currently being piloted across the country is the curtain-raiser in the new GDP Theatre and is led by Dr Roger Matthews, Chief Dental Officer at Denplan; Professor Jimmy Steele, Head of the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University; Elizabeth Lynam, Head of Dentistry & Eye Care Services, Medicines, Pharmacy & Industry Group at the Department of Health, and Panel Chairman Dr Ben Atkins, Trustee for the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) and NHS dentist on the clinical pilot.
Clearly passionate about enhancing the way NHS dentistry is practised and viewed, Atkins is keen to share his experience of the contract reform so far.
“We have seen a dramatic change to way the reformed contract requires us to work,” he says. “This is the fourth contract I have witnessed and it has imposed the most significant change I have seen by far. Of course, still in the pilot stages, there are a few areas that need refining and there are both some good aspects and some not so good – but the fact that we are able to trial the new regulations in practice, is hugely beneficial.
“The reformed contract is certainly a lot more prevention-focused, and in my experience, the biggest changes have been with regards to the team. The contract reform necessitates the development of all members of the team, and offers a wider range of opportunities for those working in all dental roles.
Professor Steele agrees and says the change new contract will bring will be dramatic but good for dentists and patients in the long term:
“The current dental reform programme represents probably the most fundamental change in the way we think about dental services since 1948. The changes should be good for dentists and for patients but they represent a change in the way we all need to think about oral health care, and in many ways that is the greatest challenge.”
The Dentistry Show is distinctly different to other events laid on for the profession, say delegates, as it caters for all members of the practice team with tailored education streams for dentists, practice managers, hygienists, therapists and dental nurses and – with the co-location of the Dental Technology Show alongside – their laboratory technician colleagues. The team focus of the show is fundamental to its mandate to aid the development of dental professionals, and their practices, in the new healthcare landscape and to aid better healthcare to patients.
Dr Atkins (pictured) agrees with the focus: “Dentistry is truly becoming a team profession now, and with extended-duty nurses and the wider scope of practice for dental therapists and hygienists through the introduction of Direct Access, the dentist no longer has to do everything themselves. The role of the CDT is also changing, as they become a more central part in treatment planning and implementation. The key is to see this as an opportunity rather then a threat.”
“Equally important, I think, is to change public perceptions of oral health. The reformed contract encourages patients to take responsibility for their own dental health, as they may not be able to undergo complex work dentists historically would have completed automatically, if their basic oral health is not good enough. Communicating this to patients however, will be a challenge in itself,” Dr Atkins added.
There are some concerns among the profession that the contract reform will enforce restrictions on what practitioners can and can’t do. To this Dr Atkins says:
“At the moment, the practitioner retains the ability to over-ride the system wherever they see fit, so I wouldn’t say that limitation is a particular worry at this point. I would recommend that practitioners try to follow the contract reform before over-riding it of course, but there is still that option. It is however a complicated system and I completely understand where these concerns have come from, so will address some of these during our session in the GDP Theatre at the show.”
Although the contract reform is currently still in the pilot stages, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourselves and your practices.
“I would suggest that practice owners look at their team and audit their staff so that they know exactly what everyone does and what they would like to do,” advises Dr Atkins. “I also think it’s really important to start building an understanding of the pilot – LDCs are holding lectures to provide information and you really need to get involved! Also, the more details you can get, the better you will understand the proposed changes and the less scary it will seem.
“It is worth emphasising as well, that this contract reform will affect everyone in the provision of primary and secondary care, including those in private practice. I think it will raise bar for dentistry across the UK, but you need engage in order to decide for yourself!”
Roger Matthews agrees with this, adding: “NHS contract reform – especially on the scale suggested by the pilots – will impact everyone in dentistry, whether they are in private west-end practice, or treating populations in deprived areas. It will require a wholesale culture shift by both professionals and the population at large.”
All this, and much more, will be covered across the GDP Theatre and the six other main clinical and dental business programmes, so you can find out how the contract reforms, and other changes in dentistry, will affect you as you explore the biggest Dentistry Show to date.
We look forward to seeing you there!