Looking to the future

25 June 2021
4 min read
Published:

Bertie Napier, interim chair of the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD) speaks about the formation and goals of the organisation, as well as some of the issues impacting the wider industry, “The profession has needed an organisation like the BAPD for a long time. Despite the number of private dentists in the country, there hasn’t been solid representation for us at a government or wider level. The pandemic has been the catalyst for something that’s been a long time coming and simply gave us the space and time to form the BAPD.

“In the past, we thought that we were represented by the CDO at some level, but the reality is that we aren’t. This is something that even now some dentists find difficult to grasp, even though the England CDO at least has made it perfectly clear that this is the case.”

With coronavirus putting pressure on NHS services and more people turning to the private sector for their oral health needs, Bertie goes on to explain why representation for private dentistry is essential now more than ever, “The pandemic is pushing more patients towards private care with NHS waiting lists now longer than ever in some parts of the country. This is further supported by the increasing number of dentists leaving the NHS for private dentistry, often in response to the growing regulations and pressures that having an NHS contract entails. As this sector grows, it’s even more important that we have a mouthpiece for the collective.

“This is not about being in competition with other professional organisations, but more about ensuring that all dental professionals – including those in the private sector – get their voices heard. Nearly all of the action right now is focused on NHS dentists. While this makes some sense given the problems facing NHS dentistry, a more comprehensive approach that respects the immense contribution of the private dental sector to the delivery of oral healthcare would be far more beneficial for the profession and the public we serve.”

Outlining some of the current aims for the BAPD, Bertie continues, “The main problem right now is that there is no current roadmap out of the coronavirus crisis for the dental profession. While there is an estimated timeline for everyday life to return to normal, dentistry appears to be expected to just ‘carry on’. Challenges posed by enhanced PPE and fallow time requirements, have made it far more difficult to provide high quality care. We can accept that at the height of the pandemic, a precautionary approach had to be adopted, but there is little or no hard scientific evidence for some of the things required of dental clinicians in the current guidelines.

“As such, with the country on the road back to normality, the BAPD is currently looking to help de-escalate enhanced PPE. Without belittling the dangers of the virus, but with infection rates dropping and the benefits of the vaccine kicking in, it is not improbable to begin thinking about a return to our pre-pandemic PPE measures. Dentists have never experienced a disproportionate amount of disease transmission compared to the general population, suggesting that our standard infection control measures would be adequate for keeping everyone safe.

“Another, perhaps longer-term vision for the BAPD is to change the current dynamic of the relationship between the GDC and the profession. We can see that the regulator is bringing about some change, but there is a lot of work needed to rebuild the trust lost because of the past actions and we need to keep the pressure on to ensure that things continue to improve. The GDC needs to be exemplary in the way they conduct themselves and held to the same high standards they expect of registrants. There absolutely needs to be a fairer process overall.

“And then there is also the problem with some indemnity companies. Many often roll over in the face of patient complaints, even over largely unfounded claims – simply because it is the path of least resistance and least cost. They forget that for most dentists their reputation is more important than anything else. So yes, we need to work on this to create a fairer process that enables patients to speak up, but that also protects dental professionals from unnecessary stress and stops them from being easy targets.

“Finally, private dentistry is about choosing to practise dentistry in a way that enables the delivery of quality care, and at its core the BAPD is about promoting quality dentistry. We want to support patient education regarding the benefits of oral health and help patients understand the value of quality dental care. On the profession-facing side, we want to work with dental professionals to achieve the highest standards. We need to re-establish the baseline of quality care, help those not quite meeting it and yet at the same time be cautious about not creating unrealistic expectations. We want a British dental profession to be really proud of – we’re there already in many respects, we have all the makings for this, but there’s definitely still some work to be done.”

Speaking about the future of the industry and his role within the BAPD, Bertie says, “Moving forward, individuals need to be able to speak up. We should move away from the cap in hand approach and realise that we are all highly trained professionals that can be incredibly adaptable to different circumstances. We need enthusiastic and pragmatic wet-finger dentists collaborating with our academics to create guidelines and best practice protocols. We also need to involve and protect DCPs – it’s not just dentists that are being driven away from the profession. We also need to ensure MPs have a better understanding of dentistry – especially as their decisions impact our work so heavily.

“My current role, together with my colleagues within the BAPD board, is about seeing the organisation into its next phase. We want an organisation that is representative of the private sector of the profession and for members of the board to be elected into their positions. Plans are well under way for this.

“Ultimately, I would like to see us continue the push for quality dentistry, which would automatically solve so many problems within the profession. By taking the focus off financially driven policy and focusing on what is actually best for patients, the public will start to understand why dentistry costs what it does and dentists can work to the best of their abilities without restriction.”  

For more information about the BAPD, please visit www.bapd.org.uk