Having long been fascinated by the dental corporates, I have watched how the sector has developed over the last decade. Prior to 2006, only 28 dental corporate bodies (DBCs) were allowed to carry on the business of dentistry. Obviously this placed a limit on the number of companies allowed to provide dental services.
Then, in 2005, one of the amendments to the Dentists Act made it possible for companies to own dental practices. In 2006, an article in the GDC Gazette said that the Council planned to maintain its list and all the DBCs would have to pay a fee and submit an annual return.
This was reassuring. It seemed appropriate that commercial organisations should be free to acquire dental practices but, at the same time, that they should continue to be answerable to the GDC. But the list of corporate bodies and the requirement to pay a fee and submit an annual return failed to materialise. I can find no explanation on the GDC website as to why the measures they planned to implement were abandoned.
I am aware that a majority of a DBCâ€™s directors should be registered with the GDC as dentists or Dental Care Professionals (or a combination of the two). Perhaps it was felt that this provided enough of a guarantee?
My feeling is that the development of corporate dentistry has been an inevitability. The big chains have certainly made it easier for commissioners of dental services. They are already providing around 20% of NHS dental services.
But I think choice is important. Some patients want consistency and predictability and thatâ€™s what small independently owned practices can provide. I know one of the questions my patients often ask is â€œWill I always see you?â€ I think itâ€™s important that I can reassure them that I am always here, barring holidays. I am even available when patients have a hygiene appointment as itâ€™s me who removes the patientâ€™s wire from the brackets to enable a thorough clean.
I know the kind of healthcare I love to experience and thatâ€™s what I want to deliver to my patients.