RCSI Faculty of Dentistry express concerns for patient care under new National Oral Health Policy

The Faculty of Dentistry of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (FoDRCSI) has renewed its’ expressions of concern for patient care under the new National Oral Health Policy; Smile agus Sláinte.

The Faculty is Ireland’s leading centre for postgraduate dentistry education, with around 900 students examined each year and over 2,000 of its graduates working in the profession across Ireland and the world. The Faculty has no remit in the delivery of dental services to patients.

Engagement with policymakers

Representatives from the Faculty attended the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health (15 May 2019) to discuss and propose changes to the current National Oral Strategy.

Subsequently, the Dean of the Faculty Dr. John Marley, and Vice Dean, Professor Chris Lynch, attended a meeting of key stakeholders in Irish dentistry at the Department of Health on 26 August 2019. The meeting, chaired by Minister of Health Simon Harris, included representation from the RCSI Faculty of Dentistry, the Irish Dental Association, the Dental Council and the Irish Society for Disability & Oral Health and the Chief Dental Officer.

At the meeting, the Faculty set out its key concerns in relation to Smile agus Sláinte, particularly in respect of existing post graduate training gaps and urged for it to be resolved in the Department’s implementation of the Policy. The Faculty reiterated that legislative changes are needed to address these concerns, yet the Autumn Legislative Programme does not contain proposed legislation.

Call for action

This week, Dean of the Faculty Dr. John Marley, has written to the Minister for Health outlining its continued concerns. The Faculty has urged the Department of Health to establish in postgraduate dental education what is already routinely provided within the medical community, and ensure that the following elements were a core part of its National Oral Strategy:

  • A mandatory system for continuing professional development for dentists.
  • A properly established and funded Dental Foundation Training/Vocational Training Scheme. This would protect dental school graduates in the transition from dental school to independent practice.
  • The introduction of further specialist lists in dentistry beyond the existing lists in Orthodontics and Oral Surgery.

The new Policy also proposes the establishment of a network of advanced oral healthcare centres in dental hospitals. However, the Faculty has warned these centres cannot function effectively in the absence of the necessary education and training required to produce the skilled dental specialists to staff these centres of excellence.

Comment by Faculty of Dentistry, RCSI:

Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry Dr. John Marley noted:

“The Department of Health’s new policy does not address the fundamental flaws in how we further educate and train dentists in Ireland. We do not provide our newly qualified dentists with the support and training they require in their first year in practice, while established dentists are not given enough opportunities to keep their skills up to date. Equally, we need to expand the number of dental specialities available in Ireland and the Government must fund these training programmes as they do for medicine up to consultant level. There are currently just two recognised specialties whereas in the UK thirteen specialities are recognised, which a response to the increasing complexity of dental treatments.

“We cannot simply race ahead with this Policy without putting in place the foundations needed to make it a success. Enacting the legislative changes now to ensure that our dentists are sufficiently trained and educated must be the immediate priority for the Department of Health in implementing this new Policy. Unfortunately the FoDRCSI sees no evidence of actioning this promised  legislative change”.

“Ultimately, providing Ireland’s dentists with the best post-graduate training is about ensuring that patients receive the safest, most efficient and effective care. Advanced post-graduate dental training is also key to future proofing the policy over the longer-term.”

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