A new dawn
The launch of CGDent is an opportunity to ‘bring together the whole dental team for the benefit of patients and society’
Wy do we need our own college?” Professor Nairn Wilson, the Founding President of the College of General Dentistry(CGDent), kicked off a webinar last month with that fundamental question.
The formal proposal to transfer the Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK) to a newly established, independent organisation, CGDent, was made by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
It represents a “transfer of undertakings”, meaning that all the activities and services undertaken by FGDP(UK), and all its staff, will transfer to the new organisation from the beginning of July. FGDP(UK) has been part of the Royal College of Surgeons of England since its inception in 1992, but the faculty has always harboured an ambition to become an independent college.
The question is not why join, but what’s stopping you from joining?
In 2017, the Faculty Board decided that independence would provide a clearer identity, agility in its business, and stronger focus in its work for members. The vision of the new college is that it will fulfil the aspirations and enhance the professional standing of general dentistry to achieve parity with other and equivalent health care and medical professions. The Trustees of the Royal College of Surgeons of England acknowledged the ambitions of the faculty and supported its plans for independence.
The new College of General Dentistry will provide an independent home and elevate the professional standing for general dental practitioners and members of the wider primary care dental team. It will build upon the work of FGDP(UK) in being recognised nationally and internationally as the home for general dental practitioners.
It will “serve the public and patients by cultivating excellence in oral healthcare, thereby contributing to everyone’s wellbeing; achieve this by establishing evidence-based guidance and standards for dentistry, embedded within a strong professional community of practice; and foster quality in practice for dental professionals through their education and training, career development and lifelong learning”.
Professor Wilson told the webinar: “The hallmark of any profession is that it should have a professional association, which we have with the BDA since 1880, a regulator which we’ve had in the form of the GDC since 1956. And the thing that has been missing is a royal college of our own. It is seen as the three legs of a stool in many other professions and it’s the one we have not had in dentistry.
“For far too long, dentistry has been the only mainline health care profession without its own college, let alone its own royal college. That to me, is wrong. There is no question that professions which have their own royal college have a different standing and status from those that don’t, it’s as simple as that.”
He said that during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the reaction of a Secretary of State, or a First Minister, is to say to their private secretary: “Bring in all the presidents of the royal colleges.”
Professor Wilson added: “Dentistry has just not been there. We must be there, not just for the COVID crisis but for all consultations, given the importance of oral health in overall wellbeing. We are part of the holistic care of people.”
Getting to be a royal college is not simple, he said, which meant achieving that status was a strong signal to society of the importance of the profession. The public recognises the level of expertise required to achieve membership or fellowship of a royal college.
Professor Wilson said that the dental profession had the opportunity to create the largest royal college in the Academy of Royal Colleges; if only half joined the new college, membership would outnumber that of general practitioners, which stands at around 44,000.
“That will give us influence and power that we have never had in dentistry. Not to be independent from other healthcare professionals – we want to be fully integrated into healthcare – but we must control our own destiny, and now is the time. There is a new dawn, and not just created by the pandemic; everyone in the profession has been crying out for new arrangements that are preventatively orientated. It is also an opportunity to bring together the whole dental team for the benefit of patients and society.”
But he added: “If we are going to do this, if we are going to get royal status, then we need people behind it. People can’t be bystanders. This is time to stand up, be counted and be part of this initiative. The Privy Council is very cautious; they don’t want Her Majesty to put pen to paper and sign-off on a royal charter for something unless it is serious, important and has longevity.
“This is an historic opportunity; time for dentistry to move away from the old to something new and fit for purpose. This college is going to be unique in healthcare, with its embrace of the team approach. We are going to be the model for the future, with a whole team approach – parity across all oral health care professionals – to holistic care.”
The webinar also heard from Abhi Pal, President Elect of CGDent. Dr Pal highlighted how four types of team member will benefit from membership of the college. “I mean this in the broadest sense because I recognise there are many diverse career patterns in dentistry,” he said. “It isn’t just about people working in a practice delivering general dentistry five days a week. There are a lot of people who combine general dentistry with other areas of interest.”
The first group are those either entering or are within a few years of entering the workforce. “We welcome these colleagues initially as associate members from the time when they qualify and hope they move along the pathway to become full members. They will have a structure within which they can pursue their own direction, within a time frame and interests that are relevant to themselves.
“Most importantly, these members will have support from mentors within the college. And they will have that support even after they’ve left the conclusion of dental foundation training or dental core training as they move into the general practice environment.
“We know that roughly half of DFT graduates will go into practice, half will go into dental core training, and that is quite right because the DCT confers some additional benefits, but ultimately, after DCT Two I would think virtually 90 per cent will be coming back into the general dental practice environment. And we will be there to be able to support the members who join us.”
Dr Pal outlined the resources that will be available, including webinars and a suite of post-graduate qualifications.
“The second group of colleagues will be those who have perhaps been in practice for a few years and have already undertaken the credit training to perhaps postgraduate diploma or MSC level, or maybe even have a specialty membership,” he said.
“And we encourage them to join us as associate fellows or fellows. They will receive recognition through our career pathway as an enhanced practitioner. This may well facilitate these members in further career aspirations, whether it is to be practitioners within the NHS, being in private practice with special interests, being successful practice owner, as a dental educator, or taking other leadership positions.
“One of the things that I’d like the college to be able to recognise is those that run successful dental practices and have successful teams that they have nurtured and developed through their leadership and business management skills, should also be recognised as having some degree of enhanced skills.
“The third, group practitioners are those who have perhaps amassed many years of valuable experience but have not undertaken any formal accredited qualifications for whatever reasons. We encourage these colleagues to become members, as we will have a route for these colleagues to grandparent them into a career pathway by demonstrating equivalents – so that they too can receive a long overdue recognition of their skills and experience.
“So, we want to broaden this net out, not just for people who at the start of their career, also people who have progressed some way, but also people who are even further in their career, to be able to give them through our membership recognition for the training.
“And finally, and by no means least, and uniquely within similar healthcare colleges, we will welcome members of the dental team who are not dentists, to have their own faculties within the college by becoming members. They too will be able to develop parallel career pathways and recognition for their achievements. These include dental nurses, dental hygiene therapists, dental technologists, and orthodontic technicians.
“We hope in time to develop specific, accredited qualifications to support the professional development of these members. We’re talking about a professional development plan, with mentor support, together with a career pathway, which is flexible and has local engagement. I think, with this package together, we may be able to address a number of the of the challenges that people working in the profession face.”
Dr Pal added: “In addition to what membership will say about you as a practitioner, being a member also supports the other areas of the college that we are involved with, namely the production of our quality guidelines and standards that are relevant to your work and practice, and research in primary dental care. These activities, guidelines and research are directly in line with the charitable aims of our college – because the college is a charitable organisation, just like every other medical and surgical royal college.”
He concluded: “What do we have as benefits of membership of the academic realm of dentistry? We’ve got the recognition of your professional development, access to mentor supported career pathways, we have involvement of the whole dental team, we’ve got supporting the charitable functions of developing guidance and research relevant to your work.
“You’ve got discounted indemnity, you’ve got free access to dental CPD, to the Primary Dental Journal, and access to local CPD organisations. So, the question, I think, is not why join, but what’s stopping you from joining? I urge all members of the dental team to consider this wide range of benefits. Join us now at this historic time, to be part of the new college, showing vision, and help shape the future of dentistry and dental careers.”