UK: Dental Brief - February 2012

Last Updated: 9 February 2012
Article by Jenin Khanam

Which investigation in Dental Practices

A Which? investigation carried out across England rated 11 dental practices out of the 20 visited as providing poor history taking, clinical examination and inappropriate treatments.

The undercover investigators all required an x-ray for their dental problems which ranged from gum disease to decay and orthodontic needs, but only 3 practices complied with the new good practice guide for preventative treatment by advising their patients on the likely cause of problems and how to avoid them. The GDC after studying the findings stated "we are extremely concerned by the evidence of poor standards in the delivery of dental care. All dentists and dental care professionals are required to observe standards and the findings of Which? undercover research raised questions about adherence by some dentists."

The GDC's complaints backlog

The BBC have reported that the problems at the GDC were at their worst in 2010 when 72 out of 224 serious complaints referred during the year had not been dealt with within 9 months. The GDC have now appointed a new Chief Executive and have increased the number of investigatory hearings and staff.

Following resignation of former Chair, Alison Lockyer, and complaints about the internal disputes within the GDC, the Government asked the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to investigate in September 2011. CHRE's Chief Executive, Harry Cayton, states "the General Dental Council needs to refocus all its energy and attention of patient safety and the quality of dentistry ... that is its job and that is what it needs to do and it needs to put the resources, the time and attention necessary to do that."

NHS and targets

Health Secretary Andrew Landsley has introduced 60 outcome measures after promising to scrap all of Labour's targets. However, he only mentions dentistry in respect of improving access in the NHS.

In the meantime, NHS Chief Executive, Sir David Nicholson, has informed PCTs that they must eliminate any deficits by March 2013 when they will be abolished and handed over to the Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Commissioning Board. The PCTs have been told to get tough with providers who fail to fulfil their targets and do not adhere to NICE Guidance.

Cosmetologist fined for illegal tooth whitening

Carl Espano pleaded guilty at West London Magistrate's Court of offering tooth whitening treatment when not registered with the GDC. He was fined £1000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs.

The magistrates told Mr Espano "this is a serious offence particularly for potential victims as you didn't have any indemnity in place for any damage you might have done to any teeth. In addition should you have damaged the adult teeth a patient only has one set. Accordingly, we view this as a serious offence." New GDC Chief Executive and Registrar

Evelyn Gilvery stated "we are committed to taking action against people who offer tooth whitening unlawfully. They are a risk to the people they treat and it is our duty to act to ensure public safety."

Fraudster convicted for illegally fitting and selling low grade dentures

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency ("MHRA") successfully prosecuted a fraudster who posed as a medical practitioner and ran an illegal denture fitting and supply business from his home, using the trading name "Denture Clinic".

Stephen Sicklemore was described as a "dental charlatan" by Judge Graham Cottle who handed him 9 months suspended prison sentence. The judge stated that Sicklemore should never be allowed to practise in the industry as his actions resulted in a serious breach of trust that could undermine the confidence of the public.

MHRA Director of Devices Peter Commins stated "Medical devices bring widespread health benefits for patients and the public but no product is risk-free. Our priority is to ensure that patients have acceptable safe medical devices. We will not hesitate to take action against those who undermine public health."

Employment Reforms

In April this year we shall see a number of changes to employment legislation. The continuous service requirement to bring most unfair dismissal claims will increase from one to two years (although this may only apply to those who start employment on or after 6 April 2012). Tribunal procedures will be streamlined, and judges will sit alone on unfair dismissal cases. The maximum costs that may be awarded in an unfair dismissal case will be increased to £20,000.

Shortly before Christmas the Ministry of Justice launched its consultation on possible Tribunal fees, which proposes two options: The first involves a fee for issuing a Tribunal claim and a further fee for the hearing; the second proposes a fee for issuing the claim with the amount depending on what the claimant considers the claim to be worth.

Consultations are expected to be launched on a raft of other proposals, including compromise agreements, protected conversations, early conciliation, workplace mediation, no-fault compensated dismissals for micro-employers and the rapid resolution scheme.

Watch this space!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Jenin Khanam
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