It’s been an odd week for NHS news. Earlier in the week, a Times columnist wrote a column on why The NHS should promote its services abroad (where the NHS Brand is revered) and encourage foreign patients to visit UK NHS Hospitals in order to receive fabulous treatment which they pay for, thereby helping the UK economy grow. The columnist praised the NHS and our deep love for it as an institution citing the Olympic opening ceremony as an example of our collective support for The NHS.
What a difference a day makes. On the following day, The Times front page featured Robert Francis QC’s report on the treatment of patients at The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where “Hundreds of patients died needlessly”. A truly awful conclusion to a distressing report.
So, how can both views of the NHS happily (or unhappily) co-exist? Well, because, NHS care is delivered by a collection of clinical staff some of whom are excellent, some only average and some simply poor at what they do. The patients (rightly) want excellent care, often suffer average care and at times receive poor care according to a roll of the dice.
How is this relevant to Dental Practice? Well, in the many years since I qualified (1980), the “Elephant In The Room” in Dentistry has been that no-one mentions out loud (and certainly not within the earshot the mainstream press) the obvious and huge variation in the capability of UK Dentists. The patients (rightly) want excellent care, often suffer average care and at times receive poor care according to a roll of the dice! Strangely, in my opinion, the audit and regulation of dentistry at a practice level (I’m thinking CQC, BDA Good Practice, Denplan Excel, PCT Inspections etc) tends to assess and regulate the dental practice environment, not assess and regulate the abilities of the clinicians who deliver the care. So, inevitably a wide variety in the quality of dental care is evident in the mouths of patients, there for anyone to see!
I’m not about to propose a solution to improve the quality of dental care. I suggest that if you own or work in a Dental Practice which, hand on heart, delivers excellent dental care and creates fantastic outcomes for delighted patients, (NHS or Private), then you should be prepared to tell your patients and prospective patients that this is what they can expect. I know that the GDC prevents you from claiming that you are better than your colleagues, however, there are more subtle ways that you can demonstrate your worth. These include (authentic): Patient Testimonials, Patient Reviews, Patient Videos, Before and After Libraries etc. Be proud of your qualifications and courses, and be prepared to guarantee your work. If you’re a good dentist, it’s time to put some clear blue water between yourself and the rest.
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