The Faculty of General Dental Practice UK (FGDP(UK)) has responded sceptically to proposals to cut costs by amalgamating the UK’s health regulators.
In response to a consultation by the Department of Health, it says it is not convinced that combining dental regulation with that of other professions could save money while retaining the required understanding of the dental professions, and that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the interests of patients and the profession will best be served by the continued existence of a regulator dedicated solely to dentistry.
The Faculty says that decisions on the regulation of health professions should instead be guided by the risk of patient harm, and that as such there can be no optimum number of healthcare regulators. It also suggests that as the UK has over 70 regulators, “including four for social care, and six each for legal services, financial services and privatised utilities…nine regulators for healthcare, covering 1.5 million professionals in 32 occupations, does not appear excessive.”
FGDP(UK) also expresses concern over proposals to create a single adjudication body for fitness to practise, a single register of all health professionals, and a single set of standards in lieu of profession-specific ones, and rejects the suggested use of mediation in regulatory proceedings and proposals for employers to be represented on the General Dental Council (GDC).
However, FGDP(UK) agreed that the currently statutorily-regulated professions should be reassessed to determine the most appropriate level of oversight, and that the regulator should be accountable to the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Irish Assembly in addition to the UK Parliament.
Dr Mick Horton, Dean of FGDP(UK), said:
“While the GDC itself acknowledges that there are improvements to be made to the way in which it regulates, it has nonetheless developed specialist knowledge of dental patients and the professions that treat them, each of which exhibit characteristics and contextual factors which are not necessarily the same as those of other medical professions and their patients. In an amalgamated regulator, this sector-specific knowledge would either be maintained at additional cost, or, more likely, lost in a drive to harmonise procedures and cut costs. For these reasons, the onus is on the government to produce convincing evidence that its own stated objectives for regulation – public protection, performance management, and professional development and support - would not be all the harder to meet if dental regulation were to be amalgamated with that of other professions.”