Let me start with an apology ...
Those of you of a certain age may recognise my poor attempt at an ironic pun. That of course is nothing to do with my age – I am just a poor punner, so to speak.
One Week to go, Eight Weeks from certainty,
We are 8 weeks from a General Election the outcome of which is regarded widely as the most uncertain for many generations. We are also less than a week from a most important event: Roll up, roll up, it’s the GDC under the microscope of political accountability … [well, hopefully!]
By the time you read this the House of Commons Health Committee will have parked dentistry [though the GDC Accountability Hearing] on the electoral back burner. We’re done, the politicians will say, slamming shut their leather bound folders.
Long live the GDC
Of course we have all blown a lot of hot air about the GDC. I for one wrote majestically of the
“Delusional Management Executive and Council, demonstrably out of touch with the real events”. I have to say I was rather proud of that!
What’s the point is making such a comment, though, if the examining Health Committee were to be so easily misled by a slippery GDC presentation? We shall see. Our medical colleague, Dr Sarah Woolaston [a GMC Registrant] strikes me as a good pair of hands to chair the Committee and we live in hope that the GDC are “flamed”. I for one called for the GDC to be placed in Special Measures. Will there be tears for the GDC? I suspect not.
So for this Parliament, dentistry is all over. The Chief Dental Officer [NHS England] appointment is not even worthy of news yet.
Tiers of Tears?
And yet an ominous clinical change is afoot which will potentially be a most divisive one. I refer to the introduction of Tiers to the delivery of dental care. Orthodontics is now beginning to see it being proposed, while it has been flagged for some time in GDP and of course Oral Surgery have systems being rolled out.
In essence, perhaps we could liken it to our childhood friend Noddy:
Tier 1 - Noddy can talk to Big Ears about driving but not drive a car
Tier 2 - Noddy can drive, but not on the road at the same time as Big Ears
Tier 3 - Noddy can drive on the same road as Big Ears at the same time
Tier 4 - Noddy and Big Ears can share the driving of Mr Plod’s police car
If there is one subject you should examine for your future practice, I urge you keep your eye on this ball. As a young practitioner, it may simply guide your career development.
But as an older practitioner, the way these tiers are being mooted may expect to have an enormous impact on your ability to provide more advanced dentistry as part of your mixed practice.
You may wish to plan your practice development now, before the prototypes come in and before Tiers are presented to you on a plate, rather like a new diet of limited crumbs
Because I suspect many practices are only truly viable because of the ability to mix NHS and private care. Their clinical skill comes from the apprenticeship that is a life in General Dental Practice
While Tiers are arguably driven by good thinking about the big picture, and are here to stay, I worry that the unexpected outcome will be to drive unexpected massive change through older practitioners, who in many cases of course are the practice owners. In all of this, the reality of Austerity 2 after the election – there has already been flagged real terms budget cut of up to 20% - makes the reality at GDP level quite different
Don’t let you and your practice be the one to experience Tears for Fears. The Law of Unexpected Outcomes may well be alive and well
On a closing note, not unrelated, I am sure tears will be shed for the retirement of our colleague , the Chief Dental Officer, Dr Barry Cockcroft. The old position of CDO was of course downgraded, politically speaking, to NHS England, now outside the Elephantine corridors of power in London. This poacher turned gamekeeper [for he was indeed in high office at the BDA] can have improved access to a safe retirement in the knowledge that his project of UDAs has lasted the test of time, even if did not pass any other test!! Let us hope that the next incumbent of the position does not also leave office with the same defunct system in place in years to come.
We reserve the right to have a barney with you Barry, but the least you deserve is a drink on us. A glass of Chateau Fluoride perhaps – the one with the varnished cork?
May your retirement be a long, happy and enjoyable one.