30 March 2016

Leading health charity, the British Dental Health Foundation has welcomed new measures which assess dental care professional's (DCP) language skills when they come to work in the UK.

The charity believes the legislation will provide an extra level of protection for patients by ensuring they are able to fully communicate and understand every element of their treatment with their dental team.

These new controls cover all dentists, hygienists, therapists and nurses who register to work in the UK and aim to ensure they are proficient enough in the English language to communicate effectively with patients.

The measures come into force on 1 April 2016 and will be enforced by the General Dental Council (GDC).

Speaking on their introduction Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation said: "This change in legislation is a positive move which will give patients increased confidence in the treatment they receive and ensures they are aware of every single element of it through clear and accurate communication.

"We are delighted to see that the authorities have recognised and implemented these measures to give patients the best possible treatment they can. Although European Economic Area (EEA) training for dentists operates to a standard framework, with some 21% of dentists practicing in the UK coming from the EEA, the current legislation does fall short by failing to take into account language skills.

"The standards of dentists from outside the UK are usually very high but there has previously been some evidence of issues relating to miscommunication due to language skills, the GDC will now be able to avoid these through adequate testing at an initial stage."

Dentists and dental care professionals who apply to return to the GDC register will also have their proficiency in English language considered.

The new measures follow the implementation of the European Alert Mechanism earlier this year which gives regulators the power to identify dental professionals who have been banned from practising to their European counterparts.

The system, which came into effect on 18 January, ensures that within three days of a dental care professional (DCP) being prohibited, suspended or restricted from practicing a Europe wide alert is issued to the relevant authorities.

"We have to make sure that patients are given the best level of protection from potentially poor or dangerous treatment and the authorities are making some very welcome movements to do just this," added Dr Carter.

"Many people are still nervous about visiting the dentist as they only generally hear ‘horror stories' about dentistry in the media and everything that we can do to reassure them that visiting the dentist is nothing to be worried about is a very good thing.

"We do feel measures such as these are long overdue though, patient safety and communication should be paramount and we would have liked to see it dealt with much sooner, potentially alongside the advent of free movement afforded to EU Nationals.

"This is an extra level of protection which will give patients greater assurance in in their dental team."

More information on the new legislation can be found via the GDC website.