Dental Tribune UK & Ireland
Dental Protection has recently urged the General Dental Council to be lenient in the way it approaches investigations regarding the treatment of dental patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image: Day Of Victory Studio/Shutterstock)

One-third of UK dentists report worsening of well-being

LONDON, UK: As experts continue to accumulate evidence on the social, economic and psychological effects of COVID-19, a recent survey issued by Dental Protection, a leading protection organisation globally for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals, shows that the dental industry has not yet recovered from the pandemic and that dental professionals are still experiencing the devastating effects brought about by the healthcare crisis.

The survey was conducted by an independent market research organisation, Research by Design, and it examined over 500 dentists upon their return to general practice. According to the results, 33% of the dentists in the survey felt that their mental well-being had worsened in the two weeks after reopening. In this regard, 55% of the respondents said that changes in the workplace were a key concern, and 33% stated that the fear of regulatory investigation was significantly affecting their mental well-being.

In a letter to the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA), which oversees the work of the statutory bodies that regulate health professionals in the UK, Dental Protection has recommended that the General Dental Council (GDC) should take a lenient approach to managing patient complaints arising from the COVID-19 crisis. Raj Rattan, MBE, dental director at Dental Protection, said that dental professionals have been faced with multiple challenges throughout the pandemic and that the return to dental practice has been unsettling for many dentists who experienced changes in the workflow and mounting health concerns. The lockdown has also caused a backlog of patients who require urgent dental care.

“The GDC and other regulators proactively issued a joint statement in March confirming they will fully consider the context which dentists have been practising in during this time when reviewing any complaints they receive,” Rattan noted. “While we welcomed this statement, we believe members would welcome clear guidance from the PSA which would demonstrate in more detail how the regulators will ensure a proportionate approach will be taken, especially as it will likely be a number of years before such complaints might be handled and at a point when memories of this time have faded.”

“The pressure and stress involved with working in unfamiliar ways, and the prospect of a regulatory investigation down the line, is clearly taking its toll on dentists’ mental well-being,” Rattan explained.

Commenting on the situation, the PSA told Dental Tribune International (DTI): “The PSA is looking at issuing guidance across all the regulators about how they should approach fitness-to-practise cases arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have received a number of representations from defence organisations and will be taking these into account.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for the GDC told DTI: “Our primary purpose is to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services. One of the ways we do this is to investigate serious concerns raised about dental professionals and, where appropriate, take action through our fitness-to-practise process.”

“While this remains a vital part of how we regulate, in a joint statement from the statutory regulators of health and care professionals in March of this year, we made it clear that concerns will always be considered on the specific facts of the case and that factors relevant to the environment in question, including information about the official guidelines or protocols in place at the time, will be taken into account.”

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