I remember thinking that when Margaret Thatcher said those words, written by speechwriter John O’Sullivan, that it was thoughtful of a politician to mention dentists. Thoughtful and unbelievable.
The use of the ‘Epistrophe’, the rhetorical tool of repeating of a word or phrase at the end of each sentence was used to echo Churchill’s ‘Anaphora’ of “We shall fight them etc”. Rhetoric has given way to the sound bite of, “The NHS is safe in our hands” which has always been Fake News or as my schoolteachers would have called it “Lies”.
The majority of politicians when given the opportunity have repeated the “safe hands” mantra. I wondered if it was a stock phrase they taught you at MP elocution school along with, “Hard working families” and "Education, education, education”.
“La-La Land” has been defined as “a euphoric dreamlike mental state detached from the harsher realities of life”. Few dentist fall into that category but I believe there are many who may hope: “To think that things that are completely impossible might happen, rather than understanding how things really are”.
A definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again hoping for a different result. Since Mrs Thatcher, governments of every hue have sought to undermine the dental profession by repeated assaults and insults both specific and general.
In the UK, like the majority of countries, most routine dentistry is provided by small businesses with the owners taking the financial risk of failure but also any profits from success. For years there was a 3-way set up, patient, dentist and NHS; the first paid the second the fees that were decided by the third that also set the rules. There was the possibility of competition, expansion and genuine entrepreneurship within the system. 2006 changed much of that.
The 2015 saw the Tories return to government free of their Lib-Dem coalition partners with talk of SMEs (Small and medium sized enterprises) being the “lifeblood of the economy”. Promises were made of more investment in super-fast broadband for entrepreneurs, a review of benefits for the self-employed and a trebling for the start-up loans programme.
A commitment was made by Prime Minister David Cameron (remember him?) to, “slash red tape” and to change employment laws to enable greater competition. One promise that was kept was for referendum, an excuse for any and all procrastination for the foreseeable future.
Cameron not only promised “the NHS is safe in our hands”, but also, “there will be no top down re-organisation” before letting Andrew Lansley set about things like a drunken bull manoeuvring a JCB in china shop.
The (genuine) news that the Inland Revenue’s “Make Tax Digital” (MTD) plans will mean all self employed individuals and small businesses having to make some form of tax return and payment on a quarterly basis hardly bodes well for dentists looking to reduce their costs. It will involve far more time and increase accountancy fees.
Changes in Business Rates will have a profound effect on many businesses, with London rates set to rise by 35.5% over the next two years. The fact is these changes should be made every 5 years but were delayed from 2015 so as not to interfere (i.e. prove unpopular) with the general election is further evidence of interference with the truth. Mrs May quickly promised help, then admitted there is no more money.
For years the GDC said that they could not make any changes and an act of parliament was required. This happened in late 2015, I am not sure that anyone has felt the benefits of “a more streamlined complaints system with timelier decisions, and with appropriate safeguards for both patients and dental professionals”.
Finally on the Fake News front that (new) NHS contract. As the BDA says, “The 2006 dental contract is not fit for purpose. It rewards dentists for hitting government targets for treatment and repair, not for improving their patients’ oral health.
In the 2010 general election, the opposition Conservative manifesto pledged a new dentistry contract. The coalition agreement – struck between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – pledged the contract would be introduced by the next election, in 2015.
In August 2016 Lord Prior said, “I believe that we expect the new contract to be introduced fully in 2018.”
And lawyer, John Grant ,wrote after yet another debate on the proposed contract.
“At some point there will be a new contract, but at present no one knows at all what this is going to look like.
When it does come in the government – no matter which party is in power – is going to want an awful lot more from dentists and in return is going to pay significantly less.”
If you think things can only get better (see 1997) then you are not only living in La-La Land but still expecting it to win the Best Film Oscar.
In this blog we look at two recent cases, one before the Fitness to Practice Committee of the GDC and one before the Health, Education and Social Care first tier Tribunal (‘HESC Tribunal’), and consider what lessons dental practitioners can learn from them.
Dr Darfoor, a dentist, was before the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 18th January 2016. The allegations against him concerned the treatment of three patients during the period 2011 to 2014. The charges against Dr Darfoor ran over three pages of the judgment and included allegations of failing to adequately explain and/or record explaining to the patients the treatment they were to receive and thus failing to obtain consent.
The most serious allegation against Dr Darfoor was an allegation that he had failed to obtain consent and was dishonest in his failure to do so. It is this allegation we are going to focus on in this article.
Dr Darfoor was carrying out treatment on Patient C for composite restorations and bone grafting. Dr Darfoor informed Patient C that the bone would be “synthetic”. In fact the bone was xenograft, which as you all know is bovine derived. Dr Darfoor had made the same assertion to Patient B, however, what made this allegation against Patient C more serious was the dishonesty element. Patient C had informed Dr Darfoor on a couple of occasions that he was a vegetarian and would not want animal products to be used on him.
Dr Darfoor denied knowing Patient C was a vegetarian but the Fitness to Practice Committee found that he did know this but went ahead with the procedure using xenograft in any event. The allegation of dishonestly failing to obtain consent was therefore found to be proven.
On 22nd April 2016 the Fitness to Practice Committee was reconvened to consider if Dr Darfoor’s fitness to practice was impaired as a result of his dishonesty. Dr Darfoor had previously been before the GDC before in relation to allegations of failing to obtain consent and this factor was taken into account. The Fitness to Practice Committee determined that Dr Darfoor’s fitness to practice was impaired and he was suspended for 12 months.
Every dentist knows the importance of obtaining consent from a patient. In Issue 5 of our Dental Bulletin we set out the legal issues surrounding consent. Essentially, in order for consent to be valid it must be given voluntarily and freely, by an informed person and by a person who has capacity to give consent. In the recent case of Montgomery the court put a greater burden on dentists when obtaining consent in that it held a medical professional will need to look at what a reasonable person in the patient’s position would consider was a material risk and this places a duty on the medical professional to advise on that material risk. Therefore if the dentist has knowledge of a patient’s wishes or beliefs he must take this into account when providing information as to the procedure that is being undertaken.
Dr Darfoor had also failed to provide Patient C with other information about his treatment. However, it was the knowledge of Patient C’s vegetarianism and his failure to inform the patient he was using animal material that made his actions dishonest.
This case highlights the importance of ensuring you have an open and frank discussion with patients about the treatment you are providing. Make sure you listen to any concerns or queries raised by the patient, as this could affect the information you provide to them. Dr Darfoor also failed to keep adequate notes. Therefore, if a patient does raise an issue, make sure this is in your notes along with any advice you have provided in response and the patient’s final decision.
If you would like to read the judgment in full you can find it here.
This is an interesting case, in which the CQC’s decision to cancel registration was challenged at the HESC Tribunal. It highlights that the CQC’s decision is not final and can be reviewed by an independent body.
However, we would not recommend following the path of Mr Corney and Mrs Webb when deciding if you should challenge the findings of an inspection report.
The couple purchased a care home in 1994 and described their philosophy of care as being based on the ‘European Style’, which they say meant living in the home with the residents and caring for them as if they were their relatives.
The home registered with the CQC in October 2010. Between January 2013 and April 2015 there were six inspections carried out. Each recorded a finding of ‘inadequate.’ In fact on the last visit by the CQC the couple and staff refused to speak to the inspector or show him any documentation; his visit lasted 17 minutes! If only all inspections were that quick. In August 2015 the CQC issued a notice of proposal to cancel registration.
In addition to the action taken by the CQC, in November 2013 Dorset County Council ceased to commission the care home due to safeguarding concerns they had with the home.
Mr Corney gave evidence on behalf of the couple. He was adamant that the findings of the CQC were wrong but produced no additional or expert evidence to support his case. He maintained throughout that the CQC and the local council were working together to shut his business down. The couple failed to make any changes to their practices or procedures despite having clear recommendations from the CQC.
The HESC Tribunal found that the couple were unwilling to change and to keep up to date with current standards and regulation. They went so far as to say ‘Mr Corney also has an unmoveable conviction that he is right.’ The cancellation of registration was therefore upheld. The full judgment can be found here.
We consider this is a rare case; most providers when issued with an inadequate report will do all they can to improve standards. Not wait for a further five inspections to take place. However, what it does highlight is that if you can challenge the CQC’s findings, with say additional or expert evidence, you can pursue the matter via the HESC Tribunal.
It also shows the importance of accepting where errors may have been made and looking to improve on standards or change procedures. Mr Corney clearly did not like change and we consider this factor and his failure to work with the CQC played a part in the removal of the couple’s registration.
We would comment that with the new regime for inspection that came into force last year for dentists, there is less of a focus on a ‘tick box’ exercise. Inspectors have five key questions to consider and should be taking into account all relevant factors when assessing if the regulations have been met.
The new Minister was being briefed by the new Permanent secretary, Lady Arabella Sternchin.
“Good morning Minister.”
“Good morning Arabella - it is OK for me to call you Arabella I hope? “
“Quite acceptable Minister.”
“Good I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot. I heard that old Humphrey could be a stickler for protocol.”
“I never worked directly with him, Minister, so I was never more than ‘my dear girl’.”
“Well that’s all clear then. Now as we’re both new boys, what are we going to do to get rid of the dentists Arabella?”
“Ah yes, I have done some research.”
“Splendid. Burning the midnight oil what?”
“No Minister. Burning out interns. It seems that one your predecessors thought they had things sorted out a decade ago.”
“What was the intention?”
“Well they imposed a new contract that was so ridiculous, so half baked and so poor for all parties that no-one with any common sense would sign it.”
“The dentists signed it. They ignored advice and signed in their droves. Now the doctors, as Mr Hunt is finding, love a fight, the BMA is a nasty opponent and of course people like doctors. We presumed that as it was so obvious the dentists would lose their clinical freedom and wouldn’t be able to do clever work they would say no and head for private practice. But no such luck.”
“That was 10 years ago though Arabella, haven’t we tried anything since?”
“We got this chap Cockcroft to tell everybody that everything was wonderful.”
“Oh yes I met him once - the shifty one who can’t look you in the eye?”
“That’s him. Well in spite of the fact that nobody ever believed a word he said, indeed quite the opposite, they all opted for to jam today instead of no bread tomorrow.”
“Didn’t we try anything else?”
“Yes we opted for ‘death by acronyms’, the civil servants’ foolproof fallback.”
“What did we use?”
“First there was something called HTM01 oh something, it was all to do with cross infection. We put it about that dental practices were death traps and full of all sorts of bugs. We backed it up with lecture tours by a couple of burned out bug counters and some research work by the manufacturers of some extraordinary things called washer disinfectors. They were really souped up dishwashers but had the lifespan of a mayfly. Did no end of good for our German chums who sold them and made the fang farriers pay for servicing. Fact finding trips to the Black Forest all round!”
“I remember that. What else?”
“Then we thought we would trial the CQC on them - totally inappropriate for their industry of course but it helped us prepare for the real targets, the GPs. We made them pay for our mistakes too - what a naive bunch these are.”
“Didn’t they smell a rat?”
“Sadly not at all, in fact they kept coming back for more. A bit like dental Oliver Twists, “give us more UDAs”, they said.” Then a stroke of genius, they sent Bill Moyes to the GDC.”
“What madman Moyes? He’s not still at large is he?”
“Oh yes indeed Minister and he’s on our side now.”
“So let me get this straight, the original plan was to freeze them out of the NHS, into the good old private sector. How would we placate the voters, you know the Daily Mail reading “we support the NHS” brigade? They vote for us you know.”
“Shhhh! Keep your voice down. How?”
“You remember the Carlyle group?”
“What the chaps who sell guns and ammo? They’re so bad even the Yanks don’t like them. How did that work?”
“We arranged for lots of little practices to be bought by Carlyle.”
“Goodness that’s cunning - what did the dentists do?”
“Some of them especially those growing long in the tooth - if you’ll excuse the pun - hated these “corporates” with a vengeance, but they hated the CQC, GDC and so on even more.”
“That doesn’t sound too good.”
“Bear with me Minister.”
“Chance would be a fine thing.”
“Cheeky. It seemed that once these upright, responsible members of the profession saw the colour of Carlyle’s cash they couldn’t wait to trouser the money, roll over, mutter “what principles?" and head for the golf course to blow their lump sums on Rory McIlroy clubs and Audi estates”.
“Gosh - I wondered where old Keith the teeth went. He was my constituency’s BDA rep and a right royal pain in the posterior.
So where are we now?”
“It has proved such a success that the first thing on your desk - once we get rid of this Brexit thing of course - is to consider the idea that we let the Carlyle conglomerate have the whole dental, err, shooting match. It will stop us having to pretend to deal with that dreadful Armstrong man from the BDA, apparently everyone preferred Martin as he knew how to make a decent G&T but this fellow just drinks pints of real ale and keeps nipping out for fag breaks and, by the look of him, the odd pie or two.”
“Isn’t that a bit drastic?”
“Not at all if the Mancs can manage health care, then Dentistry is just nickel and dime stuff as the cousins would say.”
“Just like that?”
“Indeed, Brexit may be a fly in the ointment, however.”
“Keeping these dental sweat shops, sorry surgeries, manned depends upon foreigners who can’t find work in their own lands. At the moment they can get work here easier than our own graduates.”
“Is that fair?”
“What’s fair got to with it? When was a dentist ever fair with you?”
“Sorry Arabella, do continue.”
“Our graduates are so in debt, what with £45k of tuition fees and much the same in beer loans that they are starting to undercut Johnny dental foreigner.”
“Maggie would be proud.”
“Indeed Minister. But it doesn’t stop there. We have plans for the private dentists too.”
“The Dutch control the fees that these cruel b****** can charge so we plan to do that and also to introduce a compulsory insurance plan to match the fees. We started talking to Wesleyan and Simply Health a couple of years ago and they have been very active and are readying themselves.”
“Goodness you have been busy.”
“That’s just the start minister. Your next meeting this morning is with Nigel my colleague from education. We intend to liberate the dental schools from University control. It’s something that we have been working on for a decade - it was Blair who originally got the ball rolling.”
“You know Tony was a good man really, a shame he pretended to be a red and a bit too keen to press the button. But ethically one of us.”
“Instead of teaching the new dental apprentices in ivory towers they will go to urban silos or, as Peter Mandelson christened them, “outreach centres”. These will be run by Carlyle, using their new branding of “ToothSkool”, and the apprentices will learn on volunteer patients for the new three year course. The volunteers will get rewarded with beer vouchers and the children a sticky bun. We have no end of great people coming on board to sponsor these places. Coca-Cola, Tate & Lyle, Kraft Food, Tesco.”
“What fun….good lord Arabella there’s a seat in the Lords waiting for you if this works out.”
The DH & GDPC – Bedfellows Or Bedfoes?
Take the Dept for Health [DH].
Add in an ineffective General Dental Practice Committee [GDPC] at the BDA
Keep the vociferous Local Dental Committees [LDCs] at arm’s length…
What do you have?
General Dental Chaos?
The other GDC and “The Referendum” are not the only kids on the dental block. The chaos of Contract Reform is still lurking in the periphery of our vision, and really ought to be a full on crisis for shouting about.
To those of you of a Gaelic disposition North of the border, good luck for the forthcoming shenanigans. By the time you read this Scotland might be heading toward independence if YES prevails – or toward much reduced dependence if the NOES have it. In some respects, our Scots colleagues have the best of all worlds – they have retained Fee For Service, and have a relatively user friendly Government. Any changes frankly are less than likely to cause great change or disadvantage in the short to medium term.
English [and Welsh] dentists on the other hand … From where I sit, the DH heads are still in the sand as we head out to a 9 year old discredited Contract with so many problems, it is laughable.
What with the GDC imploding and Scotland commanding our attention [the irony of a UK wide GDC trying to set an ARF on the day that Scotland may break away is not lost] it is easy to forget that in the background NHS England and the DH are trying to blag the next Contract Reform package
Increasingly, if you keep your ear to the ground, it appears that a Train Crash in slow motion is a suitable mind-set.
2015 not long now …
2015, people …. it is only next year – and what have we to show? Discredited pilots, great suspicion that the Corporates are trying to wedge the DH door open for personal gain, and a weak GDPC who continue to fail to nail down the critical issues.
The LDCs it has to be said are populated by wet fingered dentists who understand the issues. It is the LDCs who supposedly guide opinion at the BDA’s GDPC. Is that not what the LDC Conference is all about? Trickle-up democracy and all that?
And yet after all these years there is a feeling that the BDA’s GDPC is simply not taking the DH to task.
While opinion varies, there is a mood that the LDCs are passing water into wind when trying to influence the GDPC. If you would care to get that special ‘under the counter’ view of those in the know, you will find that there is a feeling that the GDPC are so desperate to see the present contract replaced that have forgotten all the headline issues that plague the current fiasco, overseen by the late PCTs and now NHS England’s LAT gate guardians.
Ask anyone, you all know it. The current problems abound. Whether it be the massive and unfair discrepancy in UDA values. or fairness in dealing with high needs patients – there are serious issues of finance. The clinical disaster of Endodontics is mirrored in the back office with HTM 01-05 and its fictional evidence base. What about Nurses and their enhanced professional status – no funding and no pensions! Status, indeed!!
Never mind the matter of practice sales or incorporation difficulties and how the CQC cope with it all.
Wake the GDPC up … NOW!
Now that the ARF is a matter closed in all but the detail, [OK so the GDC have gone running to KPMG in a panic and put the decision back 6 weeks – but are we fooled?] and while your antennae are still vibrating, why not turn some of your energy to the GDPC and their effectiveness in making sure YOUR contract is beneficial to you in 2015.
After all, if you want to pay your ARF and not simply take a pay cut to do it, you need Dr Milne and his GDPC colleagues to pull their collective bloody fingers out and to do so a bit quick. This next month or two is the last chance saloon before the Civil Service wrap it up for the election.
Time for the swarm of dentists to move along Wimpole Street. Even if you are NOT a BDA member – it is the GDPC who are gambling away your heard earned fees with their laziness and ineffectiveness at dealing with the DH.
You called the GDC to account.
May I suggest you ALL now call the GDPC to account. It’s your wallet that will pay for their failure.
So, the GDC has responded to the BDA’s challenge at the 12th hour with the response we probably all expected. Basically it’s a legalese version of a ‘la la la we’re not listening, and my dad’s bigger than your dad ‘cos he’s going to take all your money when you lose’.
The problem we have with that is that the BDA needs funds to take the GDC to Judicial review which comes from its members, us, which the GDC will fight using the money it gets from its registrants, also us.
Great. We get to pay for both sides slugging it out in court. That’s like getting the kids to pay for both sides in a divorce out of their own pocket money.
One could argue there will be no winners in this case other than the legal bigwigs who, should the BDA carry out its threat to start the Judicial Review process, will start to cost considerable amounts of our money on both sides. If the BDA wins, then this will only be one of the issues with the GDC dealt with, as the JR will only deal with the Consultation process, and not the greater failings of the GDC we are pointing out left right and centre. Given that the arrogance of the GDC throughout the whole process so far has been astounding, it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for the GDC to lose the JR, and STILL continue in the same manner as before, asking for even more money to replace that spent on the legal profession, and leave us with merely a pyrrhic victory, and an even bigger ARF increase. They even comment today that they are pleased to have received 4000 responses to the consultation. It shows they probably haven’t read them as I’m sure the vast majority of them wont be supportive ones.
If the BDA lose, and then have to pay the costs and losses of the GDC then this could spell the end of our professional association financially, and with it probably the last real chance of taking on a bullying and out of touch regulator. That’s why it needs as many members to support it financially by joining up in a show of solidarity.
We have this chance to take a stand as a profession, and I’m sure the legal team at the BDA have considered the implications of not winning the Judicial Review. But if the BDA backs down now, what message does that send to the GDC? I’d wager things would then get even worse from a whole load of other angles, not least from the DoH regarding the new contract. The BDA press release this evening in response to the GDC is possibly quite telling in that Mick Armstrong promises to put the interests of dentists first, and not just those of its members and the association.
So are the BDA going to play Chicken with the GDC?
I think they should.