September 7, 2023
Dental Council must be empowered to tackle fraud and unregistered practice – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Government to work with the Dental Council and the Health Information and Quality Authority to tackle unregistered dentistry.

The TD for Waterford said that unregistered practice is a criminal offence, yet clearly the regulatory bodies are not empowered to tackle fraud and unregistered practice in the sector.

Teacha Cullinane was reacting to RTÉ Investigates’ findings and testimony from the Dental Council that there are “significant legislative [weaknesses] in terms of the protection of the public.”

Under the Dentists Act 1985 only registered healthcare professionals are regulated. You do not have to be a dentist to own a dental practice, meaning it is not possible to sanction an unregistered person operating a dental practice unless they individually explicitly purport to be a dentist. There are no restrictions on who can open or operate a dental clinic here and there is no code of practice governing the operation of dental practices, nor is there a register of dental practices.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The RTÉ Investigates programme this evening has shone a clear light on the major gaps in oversight in dentistry, which is leaving patients at risk of harm and fraud.

“Unregistered practice is a criminal offence, yet clearly the regulatory bodies are not empowered to tackle fraud and unregistered practice in the sector.

“I understand that the Dental Council and HIQA recently signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to increase and improve their cooperation, but it is clear that improvements are also needed in legislation.

“The Government is committed to reviewing the outdated Dentists Act of 1985, but this review has yet to happen. The Minister is dragging his feet. This issue is similar to the unacceptable lack of regulation of psychology, which is taking years to address, and is yet another weakness where the State is failing to properly protect patients.

“The Minister must urgently review the regulation around dentistry and the requirements for practices to be registered. The Dental Council and HIQA must be adequately empowered and resourced to increase inspections and to take action against unregistered practices and fraudulent ‘dentists’.

“I will be asking the Oireachtas health committee to examine this issue in detail in the coming term. We know that there are already many issues in dentistry which dentists themselves have identified, including improvements to professional regulations.

“It is important that these regulations are up to scratch to protect patients, and to protect the professional reputation of fully compliant dentists, who are by far the majority of dentists.”

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