SDA; ‘We want to become the voice of dentistry in Scotland’
The BDA, the BAPD, the SDPO … now the Scottish Dental Association wants to make itself heard
Q&A with James Craig
Why has the SDA been set-up?
There have been multiple issues facing dentistry in Scotland for years, such as poor oral health amongst the population, the limitations of NHS treatment provision versus private care and onerous medico-legal regulation – to name a few. COVID-19 has brought these issues into sharp focus. The dental profession has largely been disengaged from the bodies that regulate and represent us, for many reasons. Although this crisis affects much of society, for the first time, there is a significant threat to the livelihoods of those associated with the dental sector, particularly in relation to NHS dental services. With this in mind, we need an effective voice at Scottish Government level to represent our sector fairly.
Who was behind its founding?
A group of like-minded colleagues from across Scotland, practice owners and associates, wanted to set up an association that would represent the needs of the profession in Scotland. We are all busy people with family and work commitments, but we have volunteered our time towards setting up a body to engage the dental community for now and the future.
Who does it represent and in what way are their interests not already met?
We seek to represent all dentists, but also the wider dental family. Just like we do clinically we should be partnering with our laboratory colleagues and our suppliers to provide the best service to our patients. Some laboratories have closed permanently during this crisis; their interests have not been fairly considered. The NHS Statement of Dental Remuneration is outdated and financially does not allow for the advances in modern dentistry. This is a long-term problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Another example is that mixed and private practices did not receive appropriate Government support during the prolonged closures, thereby threatening their viability also.
We have to ask ourselves; what NHS system will be viable going forward? For too long we have just accepted what the Scottish Government has imposed and tried to make it work. Now is the time for the profession to make serious proposals of our own. We are not being consulted properly on Government measures that affect the care of our patients and our working lives. Dentistry is a mentally and physically demanding job that does not get the respect it deserves, hence the low morale amongst the profession. There is a lack of transparency on what the Scottish Government intends to do with NHS services – the fact that dental software providers get SDR amendments from the Scottish Government before we have knowledge of them is a case in point and is unacceptable.
There is a significant concern around the feasibility of training new dental graduates and whether dentistry will be an attractive career prospect for future undergraduates. Other countries do not have the same complicated issues facing dentistry that we have in Scotland, and this is down to the structure of the NHS dental system which stifles progress.
What has been the story so far of the SDA this year?
SDA wishes to become the voice of dentistry in Scotland. A reasonable, fair, but robust voice which holds our Government, NHS, and regulators to account. We are especially focussed on NHS general practice as this forms the significant majority of dental treatment provision in Scotland. We have engaged with the BDA, SDPO, SDCEP, Directors of Dentistry, and Scottish Government and hope to establish regular channels of communication with these bodies for the betterment of the profession.
Where is the SDA now, as of Autumn 2020?
Companies House is about to approve our structure and we have an interim constitution and committee in place. Once we have the legal structure confirmed then we plan to hold elections for the committee and expand our membership. Details about the SDA are available on our website www.thescottishdentalassociation.co.uk
What comes next?
We have launched our “Save Your Dental Practice” campaign to unite the profession behind saving NHS dental care. The priority is being involved with the formulation of the new SDR. We wish to canvas the thoughts of the profession on the best way to structure this. We have begun our student outreach, as the undergraduate dental community is in turmoil now and they need to know their qualified colleagues are right behind them. We are also liaising with the Public Dental Service to support their vital work. We have explored commercial tie ups so our members can access professional services to support them in their role. We seek to begin and run Scotland’s first dedicated dental professional to dental professional support group. We are here for everyone in the dental community and want to become the natural home for everyone involved in the industry.
How can the SDA can co-exist with other representative organisations in the profession – the BDA is currently the only one recognised by the Scottish Government?
We are here to support the BDA in their position with Scottish Government consultations. However, there are a significant number of dentists in Scotland who are not BDA members and feel the BDA does not represent them. We hope the SDA can support the needs of those individuals.
As well as the SDA there have been other representative organisations established this year; how can they co-exist?
There’s space for whoever can garner support from the profession – it depends what we all offer. The SDA wishes to include all members of the dental team and is focussed on the needs of dentistry in Scotland which is predominantly NHS based. If the bodies that represented us before 2020 were effective in what they stand for then none of the aforementioned organisations would exist. Together, we can rebuild dentistry and give it the reputation it deserves, all the while delivering optimal patient care.
James Craig is an SDA committee member and Principal Dentist of Currie Dental Care.