A VOICE FOR DENTISTRY – THE COVID-19 INQUIRY
What is the Dental Alliance?
FTA Law have launched the Dental Alliance to allow the opportunity for professionals from across the dental sector to be given a voice in the Inquiry. The purpose is to demand answers and shape policy for the future to prevent mistakes from being repeated. The Alliance will act as a single point of contact to co-ordinate the views of the many across the sector, whose voices may otherwise not be heard.
The Alliance is led by Sarah Buxton at FTA Law, Solicitors specialising in the dental sector, and leading public law barrister, Sam Karim QC of Kings Chambers. We are supported by a Steering Committee of individuals representing the interests of various areas of the sector. Their role will be to liaise with the members of their respective associations to gather evidence and provide a platform for their views to be expressed.
The pandemic had a particularly unique effect on the dental sector, which was subject to the same rules and regulations as the healthcare sector generally but operates in a completely different way.
The Alliance covers a broad spectrum of private and NHS dentistry in England and Wales and represents the interests of Practice Owners, Associate Dentists, Practice Managers, Hygienists, Therapists, Technicians and Nurses. Our aim is to provide a voice for the many in dentistry and to be representative of the whole sector. We will operate as a platform to give an overall account of the experience of the sector as a whole. We will seek to collate information about the experiences of the individuals working within the sector and present that to the Inquiry. We are inviting support from all in dentistry to ensure your voice is heard and your interests are represented.
The Covid-19 Public Inquiry
The Inquiry is being chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Carol Hallett DBE, who is responsible for making procedural decisions, hearing evidence, and making findings and recommendations. Baroness Hallett is a QC and was the first woman to chair the Bar Council in 1998. She sat at as Judge in the Court of Appeal and was appointed Vice-President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. She retired from the Court of Appeal in 2019 and was made a crossbench life peer. She has previously conducted a range of high-
profile and complex inquests, inquiries and reviews, including acting as coroner for the inquests of the people who died in the 7/7 London bombings.
The Inquiry began with the publication of draft Terms of Reference, followed by a public consultation (which ended on 7 April 2022) seeking views on the scope of the Inquiry. We reviewed the draft Terms of Reference and considered these were sufficiently broad for our purposes.
What happened next?
Following the publication of the inquiry. We anticipated that our application for Core Participant status would have been granted, allowing us to play a key role in the Inquiry. Unfortunately, following our application Baroness Hallett DBE decided in her discretion not to designate The Dental Alliance as Core Participant in Module 3. Whilst Baroness Hallett DBE stated that she recognised the Dental Alliance as having an interest in healthcare and in healthcare systems and our members were involved in the provision of dental services during the Covid-19 pandemic. She did not consider that this amounted to a “significant” interest in an important aspect of the matters to which Module 3 relates, within the meaning of Rule 5(2)(b), in the context of the overall healthcare system and its delivery during the pandemic, which will be examined in Module 3 pursuant to its Provisional Outline of Scope for Module 3.
Baroness Hallett DBE offered the Dental Alliance an opportunity to renew the application.
The Alliance put forward a renewed application stating that The Alliance and its members have a clear “significant interest” in an important aspect of matters in the POS. Beyond what had already been stated in detail in the application, its members played a direct and significant role in decision making within dental healthcare systems during the pandemic, the members of the Alliance provided research and expertise on contributing to local and national dental policies in respect of staffing levels and critical care capacity and the allocation of dental staff and resources.
The Alliance is fundamentally well placed to assist the Inquiry to achieve its aims by representing the collective interests of a broad spectrum of dental practitioners in relation to
Module 3, having regard to the need to manage the Inquiry effectively and efficiently. This is predicated upon the Alliance being able to assist the Inquiry uniquely in understanding the perspective of dental practitioners in the healthcare consequences of how the government responded to the pandemic, and providing their knowledge, experience and expertise in outlining the healthcare consequences.
The Inquiry may make recommendations in relation to public health services, in particular dentistry, and the Alliance has a direct and significant interest in ensuring that any recommendations which are made can be properly implemented.
In addition senior members of the Alliance were part of direct consultations with core decision makers on dental healthcare system especially in respect of dental care and the utilisation of private dentistry and were also consulted and were stakeholders in the discussions about critical dental healthcare capacity, intrinsically and directly affected by the core decision making in relation to the response to the pandemic on dental practitioners; the Alliance could also assist the Inquiry on how those decisions and leadership led healthcare consequences with regards to dental practitioners by collating information gathered, and highlight the differs on the NHS and private dentistry and how the same resulted in healthcare related inequalities.
This is just a brief summary of the content of the renewed application.
Final Notice of Determination
Unfortunately, after consideration of all the information provided in light of the Provisional Outline of Scope for Module 3, Rt Hon Baroness Hallett DBE remained of the view that The Alliance did not meet the criteria set out in Rule 5 for the designation as Core Participants in Module 3. It was decided that the Dental Alliance should not be designated as a Core Participant in Module 3 and concluded that this was her final decision in relation to Module 3 and but this did not preclude the Alliance from making any further applications in respect of any later modules, stating she will consider any future applications made by The Alliance based on their merits at the time they are made.
In light of the above it is our intention to continue to seek Core Participant Status in Module 3 as we do not consider Rt Hon Baroness Hallett DBE has made an informed decision. In order to continue to seek acceptance and have a voice for ALL working in the dentistry
industry, we require your assistance and would ask you to support our efforts by following the attached link and scanning the QR Code to sign our petition.
Thank you in anticipation of your support.