Season’s greetings to all as we prepare for the end of what has been a very busy year for all of us at the Dental Council.
We are making significant progress on major areas of work that we identified as strategic priorities for 2020—projects that have the potential to really improve how we work with practitioners in the future.
Personally, I have been delighted to see the progress made on our recertification review, both in terms of the work that has gone on at Council and secretariat level, and in terms of the engagement we have seen from practitioners. In total, more than 500 people attended our forums and webinars. I really appreciated the readiness of people to engage and the interest demonstrated by attendees. The level of discussion appears to have been appreciated by people who filled out the evaluation forms and people certainly valued the opportunity not just to hear from the Council, but also to hear the varying views of their colleagues.
Council staff are now compiling nearly 250 submissions and feedback from the forms into a format that will make it easier for the Council to review. The next phase of the review will see us developing some alternative recertification models for consideration. At this stage we are still working towards a second round of consultation in the first half of next year.
Another big milestone this year was the introduction of the oral health therapy scope of practice. This came into effect on 1 November—450 practitioners transferred into the new scope. We are pleased to recognise these practitioners and their unique skillset in this way. We expect our application to have oral health therapy recognised as a profession under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act approved within the next few months.
It has now been two years since the Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners was introduced and we have now completed the review and update of nearly all the practice standards. I am particularly pleased to have seen the progress of this area of work, identified as a strategic priority in 2015. This framework is fundamental to the Dental Council’s primary purpose—protecting the safety of the public through setting and upholding the standards expected of oral health practitioners. This year we have reviewed three practice standards—professional boundaries, patient records and informed consent. The next two practice standards scheduled for review are the advertising and cultural competence practice standards. Cultural competence in particular is anticipated to be a significant piece of work that we are unlikely to start until after the recertification review is concluded.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to two people who have made significant contributions to the Council in recent years. Lyndie Foster Page ended her term on the Council in July. Lyndie served on the Council between 2011 and 2017. During her six years she has substantially contributed to the work of numerous Council projects and chaired the Continuing Professional Development Advisory Committee and the Oral Health Therapy Working Group. She has also been a member of the joint Australian Dental Council/ Dental Council (NZ) Accreditation Committee. We will miss Lyndie at the Council, but are pleased that she will continue to serve as a New Zealand member on the Australian Dental Council/ Dental Council (NZ) Accreditation Committee.
I would also like to recognise Robert Love who has been our senior dental academic representative on the joint Australian Dental Council/Dental Council (NZ) Accreditation Committee since 2005 and stood down this year. Robert is a past member and Chair of the Dental Council and is now Dean and Head of School of Dentistry and Oral Health at Griffith University. His strong understanding of the dental regulatory system and of academic standards and systems has been invaluable and I would like to thank Robert for his ongoing support and assistance to the Dental Council.
Finally, I would like to thank the Dental Council secretariat staff who have worked through a very challenging year. After the Kaikoura earthquake in late 2016, our staff needed to vacate our usual offices at 80 The Terrace in early 2017 at short notice. Staff then spent a period working from temporary facilities, and from home, and eventually relocated at our current office in Willis Street. Through all of this disruption and uncertainty business as usual continued, including an annual practising certificate renewal round for approximately half of our registered practitioners. In the latter half of 2017 the staff have been working through our IT systems upgrade which is a large and complex project requiring a great deal of work to ensure the final product delivers everything you expect and the staff need. I greatly appreciate the support and the commitment that our staff give to the Council, you as practitioners and to the public on a daily basis.
I also appreciate the support that many of you provide to the work of Council with so many of our functions. Practitioners provide a great deal of input to the work of Council as members of committees, as practitioners with expertise in subject areas and through your submissions and feedback.
I wish you all the joy of Christmas and a restful and safe New Year.