Direct access decision criticised

Irish consultation on direct access follows UK announcement

The decision to remove the barrier to direct access for some dental care professionals in the UK has been criticised by the British Dental Association (BDA).

The General Dental Council (GDC) made its decision in March with the changes coming into effect on 1 May. Kevin O’Brien, chairman of the GDC, said: “This decision has been made with patient safety as an upmost priority. Registrants treating patients direct must only do so if appropriately trained, competent and indemnified. They should also ensure that there are adequate onward referral arrangements in place and they must make clear to the patient the extent of their scope of practice and not work beyond it.”

However, Dr Judith Husband, chair of the BDA’s Education, Ethics and the Dental Team Committee, said: “This is a misguided decision that fails to consider best practice in essential continuity of care, patient choice and cost-effectiveness, and weakens teamworking in dentistry which is demonstrated to be in patients’ best interests. Dental hygienists and therapists are highly valued and competent members of the dental team, but they do not undertake the full training that dentists do and on their own are not able to provide the holistic, comprehensive care that patients need and expect. Our fear is that this could lead to health problems being missed in patients who choose to access hygiene and therapy appointments directly.

“The decision also ignores the stated limitations of the literature review on which the decision has been based and goes against the findings of the GDC’s own patient survey last year, which found that just three in ten people favoured a move to allow direct access.

“The undue haste with which the decision is to be implemented does nothing to alleviate the impression that this is an inadequately considered decision that is being pushed through without proper reference to the risks it creates.”

An Irish consultation on direct access has recently been put out to stakeholders and a decision is expected in the coming months.