The LDC Confederation restructured and formalised at the same time as member LDCs to provide a modern and professional membership body for Local Dental Committees.
As with many member LDCs one of our first tasks was to ensure we had a clear Vision and Mission. These are necessary to frame the work of the LDC Confederation, to make it clear to stakeholders, members and staff what we are working to achieve. The LDC Confederations is working to achieve: “A sustainable, valued and accessible NHS dental service in England”. This chimes with what our members are working for at the local level. We want to ensure that colleagues have viable and fulfilling careers in NHS primary care dentistry long into the future.
We all know that the care we provide is central to ensuring happy and meaningful lives to people. NHS primary care dentistry is vital to so many people. It helps keep children at school, and when they are there, focussed on learning; good oral health helps people stay confident socialising with friends and confident at work; good oral health helps the elderly live with dignity and keeps them independent.
Our work as dentists is much more than just the cosmetic and the “instagramable”. Dentistry supports people to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives at every life stage.
Our work in 2023
This year has involved many notable activities and achievements. Not least is the launch of the new website. All activity, both from the LDC Confederation and member LDCs, are regularly updated on the website to make sure that our work is transparent and accountable.
The LDC Confederation submitted evidence to two Health and Social Care inquiries: one on integrated care systems and the other on NHS dental services. In both we made the case for LDC representation, proper needs assessments to support commissioning and funding allocations, and the need to reform the NHS dental contract in line with a plan to integrate dental care with the rest of the health and social care system. If the dental contract is amended in isolation, then we will never be able to play our part in reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes. We were pleased to see our response quoted several times in the final Health and Social Care report on NHS dentistry, and will build on this engagement in the future.
As well as the national consultations we also submitted evidence to the Health Committee of the Greater London Authority on their eating disorders inquiry. Our response built on the points we made in our national submissions on the need for more integrated care planning including all of primary and community care. We await the final report.
We have continued our engagement with the General Dental Council, providing feedback as a key stakeholder in their perception of the GDC research. We have continued our membership of the GDC working group for dentists in difficulty, working to ensure clear pathways and adequate support for colleagues. The LDC Confederation is a member of the GDC led Dental Leadership Network which meets several times a year. Tarik Shembesh, Director of Lewisham in the South East London LDC, was provided the opportunity, through the LDC Confederation’s membership, to sit as a panel member and guest speaker at the Leadership Network meeting in June. This was a great opportunity to explain the proactive leadership and networking role of a member LDC, and the inroads that have been achieved with the Integrated Care System in South East London and other member LDCs.
As well as membership of GDC working groups, the LDC Confederation is also represented on the London Workforce, Race, Equality Strategy which has produced draft guidance on tackling discrimination in primary care. This guidance has piqued the interest of CQC and we will continue to work to see how this guidance can be more fully integrated. We have also continued our engagement with the National Guardians’ Office to help develop more clarity over the function of the national guardian role in primary care dentistry and how this can best be delivered. We have met several times with NHS England representatives who are developing guidance and look forward to further conversations in the coming year.
We continue our membership of the Dementia Friendly Dentistry Steering Group, which is a great forum bringing together national stakeholders on an every increasingly important topic. As engagement with the ICBs increases we are sure that dental care for this cohort will continue to rise on the agenda and are pleased to see all member LDCs engaging with their Special Care Dentistry MCN Deputy Chair.
The Policy Committee agreed three new policy positions; eating disorders, DCP pay and access to NHS benefits, and dental environmental sustainability. These positions will continue to inform our engagement with stakeholders and has already led to an article on the website from the British Association of Dental Hygienists and Therapists on the topic of DCP pay and access to NHS benefits. As part of our support for stakeholders the Policy Committee also agreed a briefing note on the UDA contract.
Finally, although occurring in June, the LDC Confederation was named specifically as an example of good practice, of forward thinking, proactive, solution focussed engagement by the outgoing Chief Dental Officer Sara Hurley in one of her final public speeches at this year’s LDC Conference. This recognition of our hard work, both from the LDC Confederation and our members, vindicates our positive and solution focussed approach to working with stakeholders.
The LDCs may be local in focus, but the impact of that engagement echoes nationally.
Plans for 2024
We plan to continue to build on our many successes from 2023 into 2024. Next year promises to be an exciting political year, with the London Mayoral election and the General Election expected in autumn. These political events present an opportunity for us and members to engage politically, presenting local engagement as examples to influence national policy. It is our opportunity to showcase why NHS dentistry is so important and the impact we can have on reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes.
We will support our member LDCs with a London Mayoral manifesto which can be used to support engagement with London Assembly Members, and a General Election manifesto which can be used to engage with Parliamentary Candidates. While timeframes have slipped we still hope that the results from the public attitudes survey will be available for use in the General Election manifesto and are working with local healthwatch to make this a reality.
We have been working with colleagues from dental public health and through the Local Dental Network to agree a combined dental data strategy. It is increasingly important that our engagement is underpinned by easily accessible, and consistent, data. We have been in discussion with NHS England to get dental data included in the Shape Atlas. Not only would this present dental information which is already in the public domain in a more accessible and visually arresting way, but it would utilise a system already familiar to many stakeholders and, most importantly, present dental information in the context of other health and social care data. This will make it much easier to plan the impact of local initiatives.