Dental care reform a threat to dentists’ skills, RCSI warns

Oral health policy fails to offer postgraduate and lifelong learning for dental practitioners

The policy for  provision of dental services is being comprehensively updated for the first time in 25 years.  Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

The policy for provision of dental services is being comprehensively updated for the first time in 25 years. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

 

The Department of Health’s plans to reform dental care in the State have been criticised by one of the main training bodies for the profession.

Patient care will be undermined if the new national oral health policy being developed by the department fails to provide for postgraduate and lifelong learning for dentists, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has warned.

The RCSI’s faculty of dentistry has also complained of a failure by the department to consult with it on the policy.

Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil in October that the new policy was being finalised and would be published before the end of the year.

This is the first time in 25 years that the policy on which the provision of dental service in the State is being comprehensively updated.

The RCSI says enhanced education for dentists is vital to ensure the future delivery of safe and effective dental care. Postgraduate education is needed for newly qualified dentists, with ongoing training for all dentists to ensure their skills remain up-to-date. While welcoming the new policy, the college said it had a number of concerns around education and training.

Professional development

These include the “complete inadequacy” of specialist and consultant training in dentistry, the lack of an intern year to support newly qualified dentists and the lack of mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) for dentists to maintain their skills.

“Newly qualified dentists do not receive the support and training they need in their first year in practice, while more established dentists do not have sufficient opportunities to keep their skills up to date, particularly in an era of fast-paced advances in dentistry and healthcare,” said Dr John Marley, dean of the faculty.

The faculty wants the department to establish in postgraduate dental education what it says is routinely provided in medicine. It wants the HSE or the department to fund specialist dentist training, which currently costs trainees about €100,000 over three years.

The RCSI examines about 900 postgraduate dentistry students a year. “Notwithstanding this, the Department of Health neglected to engage with the faculty in developing this national policy,” Dr Marley said.