How do you know your dentist is safe?
How do you know a dentist is safe and ethical?
Just like when you put your car in to be serviced, when you go to the dentist for a filling you are relying on them doing the work to a safe, ethical and high quality level. But unless you are a dentist (or a car mechanic in the former example!) how do you know that they are in fact doing so?
Well, one way is to rely on the regulators checking for you. Dentistry is highly regulated by a number of statutory bodies, including the Care Quality Commission, or CQC. All practices are inspected routinely every couple of years, and we had our first CQC inspection on Wednesday.
The lady who came was friendly, polite, calm and knowledgeable, even though she wasn’t a dentist. But she was THOROUGH. The inspection lasted four and a half hours, and she spoke to every member of staff individually. When we compared notes after she left we found out she had cross checked lots of our answers with each other, asking the same questions of two or three of us to check our answers complied. I saw her quietly reading our thank you cards and our comments book. She had looked at our website and was impressed it was up to date (apparently lots aren’t). And she checked lots and lots of our written records, policies, documentation and so on.
There is a lot of frustration in dentistry at the moment at the minute detail in the regulations we have to comply with. We have to spend a huge amount of time on all sorts of compliance work, which probably accounts for the equivalent of a full time extra member of staff. And of course, the lady who came from the CQC cannot vouch directly for how well I diagnose dental problems or for how gentle I am when I do a filling. But to go back to our car analogy: You visit two mechanics. One garage is clean, with plenty of friendly staff, public liability and safety notices on the wall, and has a list of prices on the desk. The other is a bit down at heel, the staff are grumpy, the prices seem to made up after a sharp sucking in of breath, and the only thing on the wall is a page three calendar from 2007. Which one will you choose?