"More Dentists Alone Won't Fix Broken Systems, Says General Dental Council"
UK: In a groundbreaking statement, the General Dental Council (GDC) has acknowledged that increasing the number of dentists will not address the challenges caused by flawed contracts. Speaking at the recent LDC annual conference in Harrogate, GDC Chair Lord Toby Harris emphasized the importance of maintaining standards while facilitating the registration of overseas dentists in the country.
However, Lord Harris made it clear that this is not a "magic bullet" to solve the issues in NHS dentistry. He highlighted the unattractiveness of the contractual terms for many dentists already on the register, suggesting that the same terms would not be appealing to new registrants, whether from overseas or domestically qualified.
While the government has supported the import of overseas dentists and calls for dental school expansion, the GDC stressed that these efforts alone would not address the access crisis without tackling retention and reforming discredited contracts.
Lord Harris emphasized that resolving contractual arrangements lies with those responsible for them, as it is in the public's best interest. He also highlighted the need for accurate workforce data to inform future policy decisions, noting the GDC's role in collecting information on registrants' NHS commitment.
Although workforce planning is not the GDC's primary responsibility, Lord Harris emphasized the importance of gathering data on full-time/part-time work and NHS contract involvement. He expressed concerns about compliance and additional costs but suggested that collecting such data could be integrated into the annual renewal process on a voluntary basis.
Lord Harris acknowledged the slow annual increase in registered dentists over the past five years but highlighted the persistent challenges faced by patients in accessing dental care. With frequent news stories and parliamentary questions on the subject, he referenced warnings that the NHS business model is driving many into the private sector, echoing sentiments from the LDC conference.