British Dental Journal 212, 355 - 356 (2012)
Published online: 27 April 2012 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2012.321

No to direct access

A. C. L. Holden1

Send your letters to the Editor, British Dental Journal, 64 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8YS e-mail: bdj@bda.org
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Sir, I am writing with a petition of signatures from myself and my fellow young dentists of the South Yorkshire deanery. We are writing to express our concern at the proposal of direct access for dental patients to be seen and assessed by dental hygienists and therapists.

Whilst we recognise the utilisation of dental care professionals in our practice, we are concerned that the introduction of direct access would not be in the best interests of patients. Therapists and hygienists have a considerably shorter professional education than dental surgeons and as a result, it is rightly deemed as beyond their competency to diagnose dental conditions. As well as this, dental surgeons are often the health professional patients see most frequently, so we are relied upon to diagnose oral conditions such as oral cancer and mucosal disorders. Surely giving non-suitably trained professionals responsibility to diagnose such conditions is bordering upon neglecting patients' rights to proper treatment?

As well as this issue of competence there is also an issue highlighted in the BDJ (Direct line lack of assurance; BDJ 2012;  212: 53) that the public perception is such that many people are unaware of the differences between different dental professionals and their roles. To change this would add further confusion. It is unacceptable to place the public in a situation where their capacity to provide informed consent is impaired due to not knowing by whom they are being treated and what their role is.

To blur the distinction between different dental professions would be an irresponsible move that would negatively influence the practice of dentistry in this country and would not benefit patients in any way.

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