Dentistry’s past, present and future with veteran Michael Watson

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Nigel Jones talks to stalwart of the career, Michael Watson about dentistry’s defining moments and what he thinks the long run will appear like, in comparison with the way it ought to.

After a profession spanning practically six many years and roles within the medical, political and editorial arenas of dentistry, Michael Watson is a widely known determine to many within the career.

With such a breadth of information and expertise, he’s effectively positioned to debate the state of dentistry right this moment and the challenges these working inside it face.

I caught up with Michael to speak defining moments, important developments and tipping factors…

Michael, you’ve been in dentistry for nearly 60 years – inform us about your profession up to now.

I certified from Man’s Hospital in 1965. The Military paid for my pupil days and in return I needed to function a dentist for 10 years. I alternated between the UK and Germany with two quick excursions, working from a cell dental unit within the centre of Belfast.

Through the Eighties I began writing opinion items for varied dental publications. Having, on the time, grow to be disillusioned with the British Dental Affiliation (BDA), joined the rival organisation the now defunct Normal Dental Practitioners’ Affiliation (GDPA).

I grew to become its secretary and founder editor of its new journal The Normal Dental Practitioner, now additionally defunct.

In 1990 the BDA suffered a membership drop when it accepted a brand new GDS contract towards the desires of its members. The next payment lower led to the primary main transfer by dentists away from the NHS into the non-public sector.

The next 12 months, I used to be approached to ‘leap ship’ from the GDPA and take a brand new publish on the BDA. Right here, I labored till my retirement in 2005.

My job title was BDA particular adviser and I used to be involved in coverage, PR and liaison with the Division of Well being (DoH) and politicians.

I additionally edited BDA Information, now BDJ in Follow. Following success in getting BDA and DoH to work collectively on yet one more paper, Choices for Change, I used to be appointed OBE.

After retirement I co-authored, together with Raj Rattan and Len D’Cruz, two editions of ‘Understanding NHS Dentistry’ on the 2006 GDS contract and continued to write down for varied publications.

Now on the age of 80 I really feel it’s time to retire correctly. However I’ve written a political/financial historical past of NHS dentistry, as but unpublished, however who is aware of!

That’s an extended and different CV, you’ve definitely made your mark on the career. What would you say are dentistry’s most defining moments throughout your profession?

The primary was once we established the concept you can have tooth for all times.

Two years after I certified, the primary Grownup Dental Well being Survey confirmed 37% of the grownup inhabitants had no tooth. My pupil days marked a transition away from the extraction and dentures of the early NHS to 1 the place saving tooth grew to become the primary theme of dentistry.

The majority of our course was about saving tooth. Throughout my medical profession, the idea of ‘tooth for all times’ grew to become the objective of each dentists and sufferers.

Within the early Eighties, crowns grew to become accessible on the NHS and it grew to become simpler to get them made. This was one other large step ahead. I nonetheless have individuals coming as much as me now saying: ‘You place this crown in 30-odd years in the past.’

We pushed the boundaries, which means the scope and high quality of therapy supplied has improved exponentially. For instance, implants, crown and bridgework, veneers and grownup orthodontics.

Maybe a very powerful second was the arrival of personal dentistry. This was helped to some extent by the introduction of membership plans. This remodeled, and continues to rework, dentistry.

Shifting on to the current day, what are probably the most important challenges the career face in the intervening time – each NHS and personal?

The problem of working to Models of Dental Exercise (UDAs) and the necessity for contract reform are current challenges that return to 2009 and the late Jimmy Steele’s evaluation into NHS dentistry.

There are few issues extra dispiriting than being on the ‘UDA treadmill’; the place is the skilled enjoyment for associates who’re dealing with the prospect of manufacturing X variety of UDAs for 30 years?

One other problem is the truth that the NHS grew out of the nationwide insurance coverage system. Dentists had been solely paid for what was performed, often extractions, however not for giving recommendation.

We nonetheless work by a mannequin the place dental health is secured by delivering programs of therapy by a dentist, the identical now as in 1921 when it was launched.

Squeeze on revenue

The system works effectively for individuals who attend often and are ready to pay traditionally excessive NHS fees or non-public charges.

Nevertheless it leaves behind those that don’t or can not attend often, in addition to those that can not or is not going to pay NHS or non-public fees. It thus perpetuates inequalities.

It does nothing to encourage those that ought to attend at an early stage of caries, periodontal illness or probably oral most cancers, or when recommendation could also be all that’s wanted. Nor does it pay the dentist or a hygienist or therapist for giving that recommendation.

On the subject of non-public dentistry, there’s a notion among the many normal public that they will’t afford non-public therapy and it’s only a manner for dentists to generate profits. That may be a problem for these working exterior of the NHS.

One factor that worries me quite a bit is the forthcoming squeeze on disposable revenue. When you have a alternative between getting your tooth performed and placing meals on the desk or heating your own home, then in fact the latter will win.

How do you assume NHS England (NHSE) are dealing with dentistry popping out of the pandemic? What do you assume this can imply for the dental future?

I don’t assume they’re dealing with the best way out of the pandemic effectively in any respect. Sadly, the individuals who will endure are the sufferers, significantly those that don’t attend often.

Once I have a look at what the powers that be are doing when it comes to dentistry on the whole, it does appear to return right down to cash. NHSE and the Treasury are saying ‘we’ve supported dentistry for 2 years, we’ve not anticipated them to fulfil their contract and now’s the time we’ve to get began doing extra dentistry’.

However saying ‘we would like extra UDAs’ isn’t going to unravel the issue.

That gained’t result in extra youngsters being seen by dentists or extra hard-to-reach sufferers attending often. It’s going to simply result in extra tales of individuals pulling their tooth out by themselves at dwelling.

I’ve an excessive amount of respect for the CDO and I feel a variety of the choices which were made in relation to the pandemic have been made by these above her pay grade.

These making the choices take the method of ‘that is what you’ll be able to have, that is what you’ll be able to earn’, not simply when it comes to the pandemic however extra typically on the subject of annual pay rises and so forth., and the way it impacts a dental observe is irrelevant to them.

Apart from a whole contract change, do you assume there can be a tipping level the place dentists will transfer away from NHS dentistry. In case you do, what is going to it’s?

I don’t assume we’re there but, however the state of affairs with associates is regarding.

It was once the case that if a observe went non-public, the associates would proceed delivering the NHS contract. However associates are actually in brief provide.

Many European dentists who had been working within the UK have now left the nation. Whereas performer numbers stay excessive, a variety of these practitioners are half time.

There’s been a lower in pay for associates, each in actual phrases and money phrases, plus they’re impacted by the identical value of residing points that sufferers are dealing with, excessive housing prices, pupil mortgage repayments and so forth. I’m undecided that as of late you’ll be able to have a fairly good life-style as an NHS affiliate.

I don’t assume it’s sufficient to only eliminate UDAs, as a result of in the event you did that – then what? Till you begin to worth your employees, and pay them accordingly, you’re not going to maintain them in service.

Jason Wong, deputy CDO, runs a observe so he is aware of what all the issues are. However getting the ‘cash individuals’ to recognise that dentistry has modified and is altering, is an even bigger problem.

We’ve had so a few years of pilots and prototypes, after which the powers that be instantly stated ‘that’s the tip of that, return to UDAs’. That’s no method to encourage individuals to remain within the NHS.

Being on the UDA treadmill is soul destroying. It’s not professionally satisfying, you’re not studying new expertise, or in the event you do you’ll be able to’t put them into use; to some extent it’s truly de-skilling the career.

Thanks Michael, for a captivating dialogue.


Preserve an eye fixed out for the second a part of this interview during which Nigel and Michael focus on the way forward for the career together with observe possession, potential important developments, and what NHS dentistry ought to appear like.

For extra skilled touch upon the way forward for NHS dentistry and profitable observe administration through blogs, podcasts and webinars go to the Practice Plan media hub.

Going to the Dentistry Present London on 7 –8 October? Why not pop by stand H42 for a chat?



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