Serious risk to patient safety – pressure on Irish Government to act

Ireland’s Dental Council has written to the Minister for Health seeking an urgent meeting regarding weaknesses in the current regulatory framework. 

It said in a statement: “The recent Prime Time programme revealed a number of cases where patient safety has been compromised by the lack of an appropriate regulatory environment.”

There has been no contact from the Minister or his officials since the programme aired on the 7 September to discuss the serious issues raised, and the Minister has not yet acknowledged the letter the Dental Council hand delivered to his office on 5 October. 

It is two years since the Dental Council, at the Department of Health’s request, made a submission to the Minister on the changes needed to the Dentists Act, 1985 to ensure it provides a sufficient protection to the public.  There has been no engagement with the Minister or his officials on the submission in the two years since it was sent.

Today, Eamon Croke, the President of the Irish Dental Association, said: “We fully support and share the Dental Council’s concerns regarding the serious risk to patient safety as a result of a lack of regulation of the practice of dentistry in Ireland. 

“The Irish Dental Association has consistently called for the Dental Act of 1985 to be updated and modernised to allow for the mandatory licensing and inspection of dental practices. As it stands, the Dental Council does not have the relevant powers to conduct investigations, carry out inspections or issue sanctions. 

“It is shocking to think that the Dental Council must ignore cases of unregistered dentists, or dentists who have been sanctioned in other jurisdictions but are practicing without investigation here. This is in no one’s interest, not least the Irish public. 

“Legislation to regulate dentistry which protects patients and ensures the highest standards of education and training of dentists has been promised for many years.

“But when the opportunity arose recently to bring mandatory professional education for dental professionals in line with other healthcare practitioners and international best practice earlier this year, the Minister would not and did not support the inclusion of this amendment in the Regulated Health Professions Bill 2022. 

“Once again, we see what little regard the Government and Department of Health gives to dental care and oral health policy. 

“What remains now is antiquated legislation dating back to 1985, while the legislation regulating medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine has been overhauled and modernised. 

“As an Association representing 1,800 dentists, the Irish Dental Association reiterates the need for urgency in legislating for a new dental act without further procrastination.”

Published: 9 November, 2023 at 17:16