The Board has been considering the relevance and appropriateness of revalidation for dental practitioners. As part of this, the Board used a working definition of revalidation as ‘a process for dental practitioners, to regularly show that they are up to date and fit to practice dentistry, giving patients and the community the assurance that the practitioner is competent.’
Under National Law1, dental practitioners must meet the Board’s mandatory registration standards, including on recency of practice and continuing professional development (CPD). Practitioners are also subject to a random audit for their compliance with those standards.
The Board has looked at current data2 about notifications (complaints) made about dental practitioners. This data indicates that the Board should consider seeking additional assurance about dental practitioner performance and professional development. The data also shows dental practitioners have consistently been reported as experiencing one of the highest notification rates within the National Scheme3.
Last year, 3.8 per cent of registered dental practitioners were the subject of a notification. This rate continues to remain high when compared to the national average for all other registered health practitioners.
It is worth noting that notifications received about dental practitioners’ performance far outweigh those received about conduct issues. When this is compared with other regulated health professions, dental practitioners receive a higher proportion of notifications about their performance.
These trends in notification (complaint) data raise questions for the Board about what it should do to actively manage these risks and what other opportunities exist to tackle those issues.
Models of revalidation are being actively considered by international health practitioner regulators in the United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand and Canada. Revalidation is closely aligned with ‘recertification’ in New Zealand and ‘maintenance of licensure’ in the United States of America.
Closer to home, the Medical Board of Australia has recently has designed a Professional Performance Framework to ensure that all registered medical practitioners practise competently and ethically throughout their working lives.
Last year, the Board hosted a roundtable with stakeholders from the dental profession and community that started a conversation about revalidation for dental practitioners in Australia. The focus being how could revalidation for dental practitioners enhance public safety.
The Board was joined by all the dental professional associations, regulatory colleagues from the Dental Council of New South Wales and the Dental Council of New Zealand, representatives from state health departments and public dental services, those involved in educating and training dental practitioners, consumer representatives and insurers for professional indemnity and private health insurance.
The roundtable provided an opportunity to exchange views and ideas about revalidation for dental practitioners. It also provided the Board with insights from its main stakeholders about the opportunities and challenges of adopting revalidation for dental practitioners in Australia.
Participants at the roundtable heard from Professor Liz Farmer who shared her learning as Chair of the Medical Board of Australia’s Expert Advisory Group on revalidation. Professor Farmer also showcased initiatives being considered by other registered health professions internationally, along with the benefits revalidation has can have for public safety.
While different aspects of revalidation were discussed at the Board’s roundtable with stakeholders, the Board has not yet decided to adopt any specific approach to revalidation. The Board remains interested in understanding more about revalidation models for dental practitioners in the Australian context.
The Board understand that using the term ‘revalidation’, in an Australian context, can be confronting for practitioners. With this in mind the Board prefers the term ‘professional assurance’.
Over the next three years, the Board will explore ways to support dental practitioners to maintain and enhance their professional skills and knowledge and remain fit to practise.
The challenge facing the Board is to decide if the current requirements and processes in place for practitioners are sufficiently robust to ensure ongoing competency while adequately protecting the public.
The Board plans to commission research to identify the characteristics of ‘at risk’ and poorly performing dental practitioners. This research will also consider the types of support needed to make sure dental practitioners keep their skills up to date throughout their professional lives.
The research will help inform the Board’s future direction and decision-making about dental practitioner professional assurance and ensure it is effective, evidence-based and practical. This research will be conducted over the next 12 months.
1Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in state and territory (the National Law).
2Dental Board of Australia Annual report summary 2016/17.
3National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).