As the hot topic of GDC reform continues, Dr Simon Hocken shares his thoughts on the subject:
The 2012 Office of Fair Trading report into dentistry found lack of information was an urgent problem for patients and in 2014 many patients still don’t know what their options are when something goes wrong. That advert in the Telegraph was about reaching out and telling patients that the government, via the GDC, has their back. Most readers genuinely will not have known that.
Complaints about dentists have gone up by 110 per cent and when it goes wrong in the dental chair the consequences can be so much more damaging to quality of life than, say, being mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) alongside a loan or credit card.
The reality is most people who had PPI probably needed it and didn’t miss the money it cost them. But because of new regulation in the financial industry billions of pounds have been paid out to these consumers in compensation.
It’s a salutary tale and one the dental industry should heed. If it rails against Bill Moyes’ vision of consumer-first services it might invite statutory regulation that ensures the customer ‘is treated fairly’ as in the financial services sector.
Notwithstanding the GDC’s current predicament – public enemy number one among dental professionals – there are grounds to believe the GDC is protecting the dental sector from itself.
The Dental Complaints Service has proved to be a cheap and fast way of satisfying aggrieved private patients, and Bill Moyes has said he wants to extend it to the NHS.
If he succeeds it would be a relief for thousands of under-strain NHS dentists stuck in lengthy litigation, and it would reduce the enormous expenditure on fitness to practice cases. Anyhow, reform of the fitness to practise administration to clear the backlog and create efficiencies is already underway with extra staff, which in part explains the fee rise.
Meanwhile, Moyes has called for research into why complaints are still rising, which must surely come before further reform of the GDC is seriously considered.
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