24th April 2015

The cost of improving treatment for our patients

Recently I purchased a soft tissue laser for £6500 which I use to shape gums around implant supported teeth. It saves the patient needing anaesthetic and cuts without causing bleeding precluding the need for stitches. In other words, it’s a kinder way of treating my patients.

I didn’t want to fall foul of any legislation and so I duly enquired as to whether it needed to be registered with Health Inspectorate Wales. What came back was a list of documents I needed to submit including two personal references, a financial reference, and a reference from my medical practitioner (despite having been a registered dentist with the General Dental Council for 30 years). I’m not sure what they think a less healthy, financially squeezed dentist would do with a soft-tissue laser that any other dentist wouldn’t, but they must have something serious in mind to request all these references. In addition to searching out and producing copies of all these certificates, Health Inspectorate Wales want £750 to process all the documents and register my soft tissue laser.

I realise that we need to protect patients from unscrupulous practitioners, and that is why we have a General Dental Council to police the profession (who charge an annual fee of nearly £600 for registration). We also want dentists to be insured against claims for negligent treatment (£4800 per year for implant dentists), but charging £750 to register a piece of equipment that improves the patient experience, just adds to the cost of providing dental implants, and ultimately the price that patients pay.

As an Italian proverb says, ‘Governments are like underwear; they should be changed regularly, and for the same reasons’.

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