Highlights from the 2018 LDC ConferenceThe 2018 Conference held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast was attended by 240 dentists. The number of motions about public health concerns overtook those raised about contract reform – 11 versus seven motions were aired at conference.
Saagar Patel (Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster LDC) called on the government to release some of the revenue raised from the new tax on sugary drinks - which is ringfenced to tackle obesity - to fund oral health initiatives for children. LDC dentists also voted in favour of a motion emphasising the importance of primary care clinicians working together to treat patients with eating disorders which affects 1.6 million people in UK.
Dentists supported a motion urging the government to fund dental services for residents in care homes to reverse the 'shameful' position where care is either poor or non-existent. Speaking after this debate, the Care Quality Commission's senior national adviser, John Milne, announced that the regulator now expects all care homes to be following the NICE guidance which was published two years ago.
Agi Tarnowski (West Sussex, LDC) spoke about the injustice of vulnerable patients being fined unfairly when attending dental services and commended the British Dental Association's (BDA) campaign against such fines. She called on the BSA and NHS England to find a solution.
In a debate on patient charges in England, speakers condemned the above-inflation increases for three years running as a tax on patients' dental health. Smita Rajani (Herts LDC) wondered how this was helping Theresa May's 'just about managing' and pointed out that one in five patients were delaying treatment due to rising costs.
There was unanimous support for a motion calling for an alternative way of collecting patient charges so that dentists cease to be 'tax collectors'. Nick Stolls (Norfolk LDC) called on the government to collect the 'tooth tax' in a way that doesn't involve dentists.
During intense debates on contract reform, a motion from North Hants LDC calling on the General Dental Practice Committee (GDPC) to disengage from negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England was defeated. Speaking against, Chair of BDA's General Dental Practice Committee (GDPC), Henrik Overgaard-Nielson, warned that this would be a huge mistake considering what happened last time (2006) dentists left negotiations: "we didn't engage and we ended up with a rotten contract".
In a Question Time session on devolution and oral health inequalities in children, Joe Hendron, Chair of the 2018 LDCs Conference, asked the chief dental officers (CDOs) from Scotland and Wales to share lessons learnt from their national prevention schemes, Childsmile and Designed to Smile respectively, that could make Starting Well in England better. Collette Bridgeman (Wales) and Margie Taylor (Scotland) highlighted the importance of long term planning and investment. The dental lead from Greater Manchester (GM) Partnership, Ben Squires, said DevoManc allowed them to co-ordinate and deliver an evidence based oral health improvement programme in four priority areas (Salford, Oldham, Rochdale, and Bolton) which would eventually be delivered GM wide.
Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Fayle, consultant in paediatric dentistry, expressed his frustration over the fact that in some parts of England inequalities have actually got worse since he started in his career 37 years ago. When so many children still require general anaesthesia to remove decayed teeth, he was shocked that money clawbacked from dental practices could be invested in anything other than dentistry.
Joe Hendron, chair of 2018 LDCs Conference, said:
"While English LDCs have been preoccupied for the past 12 years with a perverse dental contract that penalises high needs patients and undermines the viability of practices, the Belfast conference provided a platform for colleagues from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to tell us how they deal with shared concerns. This includes the scandalous numbers of children who need a general anaesthetic to remove rotten teeth to regulatory concerns, and the issues that adversely impact on our patients' oral health."