Belfast Telegraph

Dental practices

Dentists in Northern Ireland have expressed concerns over forthcoming compulsory registration with the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

The new scheme is being implemented from April 1 as a result of amendment to legislation which will see any establishments providing private dental care or treatment to register with the health watchdog. This will include 99% of all NHS practices.

As part of the scheme, one person from each practice must register and will undergo a criminal background check.

They must also provide passport photographs, birth certificate and a doctor's report to say whether they are mentally and physically fit to run a dental practice.

The idea is to ensure public confidence that all registered providers are legally permitted and fit to provide that service, ensuring a high level of care for people who receive private treatment - an area which is currently unregulated.

However, most practices here provide some proportion of private care.

Dentists are already subject to a massive amount of regulation in the form of inspections, mandatory ongoing training and regular audits.

So essentially this new scheme will result in duplication of work to oversee NHS dentists at a time when the health service is struggling to make ends meet.

Dentists are expected to cover the cost of the scheme, with a one-off fee of £950 and an annual fee of £50 per surgery in the practice.

"It doesn't make sense at all," said one dentist.

"It would appear this is going to be a massive undertaking to apply for registration for which a dentist has to pay for the privilege to work."

Many in the profession are also at a loss as to why the new scheme demands financial information about the practice.

In order to register, the practice must provide bank references and account details for the previous two years.

The dentist continued: "I have no idea why they need this information to tell whether we are fit to practice. For those contemplating retirement this new registration scheme may be the final straw."

So, attempts to regulate private dental work could ultimately make it harder for people to receive treatment on the NHS.

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