Glasgow dentist Colin Gardner explains how he came to be recruited as an assessor for the BDA’s Good Practice Scheme " />

Quality assured

18 March, 2013 / Infocus

The British Dental Association has expanded its pool of Good Practice Scheme assessors with five new recruits located in Scotland, including myself. The assessors, from across the whole of the UK, are trained to carry out on-site assessments to ensure that practices are meeting the Good Practice Scheme standard.

From spring 2013, all new applications for membership of the Good Practice Scheme will be visited by an assessor and the BDA is also introducing on-site assessments on a three-year cycle for existing members. Anne Bender, Head of the Good Practice Scheme, said: “In total, 24 new assessors have been recruited to expand our existing pool. These are dentists and practice managers who have demonstrated skills in assessment and have the expertise to support us in delivering this essential element of quality assurance for the BDA Good Practice Scheme.

“Furthermore, our assessors are skilled in providing support and guidance to practices in meeting nationally recognised standards. With more than 1,800 member practices across the UK and 90 in Scotland, this is an important development for us and for our members.”

Good Practice Scheme assessors in Scotland include dentists with NHS, private, corporate and community dental service experience and are located in Edinburgh, Dumfries and Glasgow. Both practice managers have formal management qualifications, are experienced trainers and are located in Dunfermline and Ayrshire.

Personally, I am quite excited by my new role. I see it as an opportunity to use my career experience in professional mentoring and business management. I believe that peer assessment with good honest acknowledgement of strengths and weaknesses supported by our own professional association, the BDA, can facilitate valuable development for individuals, for practices and for the broader profession. I’m really looking forward to visiting practices in Scotland.

Like most GDPs, I started my career as an associate. Within 18 months, I became a partner in a four surgery practice where I remained for the next 10 years before joining a private dental body corporate for four years, heading a large team and then working as a civilian dentist for the armed forces and prison service while looking for a suitable practice to buy.

That opportunity came in March 2008 when I took over Botanics Dental Care in Glasgow’s west end. There had been a dental practice on the site for more than 40 years and the fact that I was only the third dentist that many of the patients had attended in their lifetime was testament to both patient loyalty and the standard of care they had previously received. However, I felt a need to make changes, to develop the clinical practice and also the management of the business.

Installation of a new dental unit and full computerisation with the associated staff training was the easy bit – everything is relative. I also introduced a raft of clinical and managerial protocols, together with systems to update these at regular intervals. It was important to me that these systems should be flexible, allowing evolution and change at regular intervals, but also as and when events might highlight a shortfall or an opportunity for further improvement. This would require the involvement and input from every single member of our team.

Yet there was still something missing for me. As a single–handed practitioner, there was no other dentist on site to discuss and compare ideas with. While I was confident that the changes I had introduced were positive and overall improved the level of care that we as a team could provide for our patients, there was little assistance available for me to measure this against to ensure we were doing the very best that we possibly could.

It was in early 2009 that I investigated the BDA Good Practice Scheme after I spoke to them at a conference. Following a discussion with their representative, I ordered the CD–ROM which contained all the information necessary to help me implement protocols in every aspect of a general dental practice. All we had to do was embed it and ensure that every member of the team understood what was involved in its implementation and evolution going forward.

Sounds simple? If any of you have heard Chris Barrow talk or seen his social media comments, you’ll have heard the phrase: “If what we are doing was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

All in all, it took the team six months to make a successful application and we gained our membership of the Good Practice Scheme in September of 2009. Our three year renewal came around in September 2012, we made a successful re application and are now in our fourth year of membership.

When applications were invited for the role of Good Practice Scheme Assessor, I decided to put my name forward and, following an interview and additional training, I and four other colleagues in Scotland were announced as the latest certified practice assessors. It is important to make a distinction between the terms ’assessor’ and ’inspector’.

The intention of the assessor is to highlight any areas for development that may come to light during an on site practice assessment. Let’
s remember, applicants have put themselves, their teams and their businesses forward voluntarily and we want to assist them through collaboration so that the practice is successful. This whole process is voluntary, not mandatory.

There has been a lot of debate in the dental press over recent years about the seemingly excessive amount of regulations and the onerous, time-consuming nature of it all. In the UK today there are several bodies involved in regulation: the GDC, NICE, HSE, Environment Agency, Dept of Health; CQC/HIS/RQIA/HIW.

Some dentists have argued that managing the expectations of the regulators takes them away from the far more important clinical role. While I can empathise with that view, I also believe that the changes being brought in are intended to benefit and safeguard our patients and the team, which should be the goal of every dentist. Instead of bemoaning the fact that these changes have come, and indeed more will be coming, embrace them and adopt a proactive approach in implementing them. My experience has been an improved standard of care for my patients, hugely improved morale and sense of self-worth for all team members, and subsequently, a more enjoyable workplace.

The Good Practice Scheme has five sections:

  • Patients
  • The Practice Environment
  • The Team
  • Monitoring Quality
  • Business Management.

Within these five sections there are 121 requirements. A fantastic resource for all would be members is the BDA Expert – it details the requirements with guidance models and links to help you get started and complete a practice self assessment.

There will be a short series of articles over the coming months, aimed at highlighting the scheme requirements with tips and advice on how best to achieve them. While some of this will be mandatory in order to make a successful application, it is not intended to be prescriptive; rather it is guidance and should be adapted to the individual’s practice.


I qualified at a time when vocational training was voluntary, not a requirement; general anaesthetics were frequently carried out in general practices (pre-Poswillo report); undergraduates were taught that the use of (latex) gloves was only necessary for extractions and surgery; autoclaves were often sited within the surgery and nobody had even heard of LDUs.

It was commonplace for associate dentists to work under the terms of a verbal agreement only, without the legal protection of a formal written contract. Frequently, new trainee nurses would be taken into surgery without any training on their very first day in a practice. If memories of these days make you dewy-eyed with nostalgia, then possibly the Good Practice Scheme is not for you. I hope instead that these memories fill you with a desire for compliance, quality and belonging.

For more information about practice assessment and joining the BDA Good Practice Scheme, see or call 0207 563 4598.

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