The British Dental Association has called on government to set out realistic next steps for healthcare regulation, following publication of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) response to the consultation on ‘promoting professionalism, reforming regulation’ this week.
The Association has expressed deep concern over both the absence of any clear timelines and the lack of key evidence underpinning several of the plans made. While it has stressed the urgency of legislation to underpin a better legal framework, it has welcomed the confirmation that the detail of the recommendations outlined in the paper will be subject to further consultation.
Dentist leaders have said no compelling case for a reduction or wholesale amalgamation of the regulators has been made; there is no evidence in the document of any efficiency savings. The BDA supports the retention of a regulator which is knowledgeable about the dental profession, and which understands that the aim of ‘supporting professionalism’ can only be achieved by working with, rather than against, the professions it regulates. We are also concerned about the recommendation in the paper that Councils should become ‘Boards’, which could lead to a situation where professional expertise on Councils could be even further eroded than it has already.
The BDA has welcomed commitments to reduce the adversarial nature of the process, and streamline fitness to practise, and the pledge to act on the inflexible legislation that has left many regulators unable to deal with issues in a timely and fair manner. But it has expressed disappointment that there is little recognition of the fact that the systems in which professionals work have a lot to do with their morale and ability to support their patients properly. In particular, the current NHS dental contract in England negatively affects the provision of care, where reform has been painfully slow.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: "Over one and half million UK healthcare registrants will be left with the impression that meaningful reform of regulation has been kicked into the long grass.
"Yes we can see some valuable ideas that this profession has long advocated. Measures that could enhance regulators’ openness and transparency and boost the efficiency of their day to day operations. Who wouldn’t’ want to see a faster, less adversarial approach? But what we need now is tangible evidence there is the political will to see any of these ideas through.
"Overregulation is one of the key drivers fuelling rock bottom morale in this profession. We now expect a clear timetable, and concrete proposal backed up by evidence. We cannot wait another decade for a system that’s fit for purpose.”