Over the past few months, the Council has been working through the implementation of the oral health therapy scope of practice on 1 November 2017.
In particular, the Council has progressed the following three applications for statutory change, set out as part of our implementation plan. More detail on the implementation of the scope is available in our outcome letter, published in October 2016.
The application for the reclassification of articaine, lignocaine and prilocaine with or without felypressin, for oral health therapists has been submitted to Medsafe. The application will be considered by the Medicines Classification Committee at its meeting on 16 May 2017. A successful application will ensure that oral health therapists have uninterrupted access to these local anaesthetic medicines without the need for a prescription or a standing order—similar to the current provision for dental therapists for patients up to 18 years of age.
In preparation for the application, the Council has consulted with key stakeholders, and received a number of letters of support. The Council wishes to thank these organisations for their support and effort on this matter. These letters form part of the application, and will be accessible on the Medsafe website, once released.
The application for recognition of oral health therapy as a profession under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 was submitted to the Minister of Health at the end of January.
With the approval of the new oral health therapy scope of practice, due to come into effect on 1 November 2017, this application is considered a logical progression from the approval of the new scope, as it will enshrine in law what is increasingly the reality in the oral health workforce. These changes are a result of structural changes to the undergraduate oral health programmes delivered in New Zealand, and mean no new dental hygienists or dental therapists have graduated in New Zealand since 2009—only oral health therapists. The introduction of a new “oral heath therapy profession” will reflect the changing face of the dental professions.
It is the Council’s view that oral health therapists have acquired a unique body of knowledge and skills due to their education, roles and responsibilities in practice. Although there are overlaps with dental hygiene and dental therapy, oral health therapists’ integrated approach to care and heightened capabilities in some practice areas distinguish their practice from these existing professions.
The Council believes the application meets the primary criteria for regulation of a new profession, as detailed in the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines for Applying for Regulation, in that:
The secondary criteria are also considered met, as the application demonstrates that statutory recognition of oral health therapy as a profession is practical, appropriate and beneficial to the public and oral health therapists.
The application is now before the Minister for consideration.
A formal request was submitted to the Ministry of Health to consider adding oral health therapists to the Radiation Safety Regulations list of health practitioners exempted from the need of a use licence, similar to other oral health practitioners where radiography forms part of their scope of practice.
We will publish on our website any links to consultation or information published by the various agencies on these applications, as they become available to us. Check our home page from time-to-time for any updates on these applications.