Safeguarding European patients

New system protects patients by identifying suspensions in other countries

A new Europe-wide alert system gives dental regulators powers to identify dental professionals who have been banned in other countries and stop them practising in a new territory.

The European Alert mechanism, which came into effect on 18 January, covers the whole European Economic Area (EEA) and ensures that within three days of being prohibited, suspended or restricted from practising, all regulators will have to notify their overseas counterparts.

A spokesman for the General Dental Council, said: “The alert mechanism will allow regulators in host states to better identify certain professionals who have been prohibited or restricted from practising in another EEA State. This, in turn, will provide greater security and protection for patients.”

A spokesman for the Dental Council of Ireland said: “In Ireland we are awaiting a change in our legislation to allow us to properly deal with alerts from another jurisdiction concerning someone practicing here. It is very difficult for a regulator in Ireland to deal with such an alert under the current fitness to practise framework. This applies across all the healthcare regulators, and not just for dentistry.”

And Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, hailed it as a decisive move towards giving patients greater protection from unsafe dental treatments. He said: “We are delighted that this system has come into effect, it gives patients much greater visibility and security when it comes to their oral health.”

As part of the alert process, the regulator will need to include a professional’s name, as well as their date and place of birth, as a minimum in order to allow other regulators to identify that individual. And while the alert must indicate the date the decision was made and the period the restriction applies, it must not contain any background information, justification or reasoning as to why the decision was made. However, regulators can request further information on an alert.

Regulators must inform individuals that an alert has been sent about their case but they must also be informed of the right to appeal and which remedies are available for damage caused by false alerts.