Surprise inspection details published

SDPC says there are still several issues that need resolving with regards to the Scottish Government’s controversial plans

31 May, 2016 / infocus

The Scottish Dental Practice Committee (SDPC) says it still has “serious concerns” after the Scottish Government revealed details of its controversial surprise inspections.

An NHS amendment published on 29 April stated that, from 1 April, NHS boards could make unannounced inspections where there are either concerns raised about patient safety during a routine NHS inspection or when “information comes to light that necessitates investigation by the NHS”.

The amendment sets out the purpose of a surprise inspection saying: “An unannounced inspection will allow the board to satisfy itself that patient safety has not been compromised by any actions or omissions of the dentists or dental staff within the practice.”

However, it goes on to say: “The inspection cannot be used as a general inspection of the premises, or to consider other issues that are not directly linked to the patient safety issue.”

SDPC chairman Robert Donald said: “NHS Boards already had levers at their disposal to provide for unscheduled inspections when allegations of breaches of patient safety are made. So the question remains why we even need formal amendments to the regulations?

“Dental practice advisers are usually the first point of contact for anyone raising any concerns relating to patient safety, and are best placed to deal with these issues without the need for a formal unannounced inspection by a full inspection team. The power has to be used sparingly. Unannounced inspections should only be considered by NHS Boards when there is a considerable risk to patient safety. We remain seriously concerned about how information will be gathered to justify any unannounced inspections – specifically in cases of whistleblowing where it’s vital to ensure claims can be legitimately corroborated.

“We’ve raised our concerns directly with the Chief Dental Officer. Any practices will need support following an unannounced practice visit. DPAs are placed in a difficult position, as part of the inspection team, but also providing support to the practice in delivering any changes to clinical practice following that inspection. While these changes are now enshrined in the new revised NHS (General Dental Services) (Scotland) Regulations, there remain several practical and operational issues which Scottish Government must resolve.”

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