We started our visit with an overview from Lisa Howells, the Deputy Chief Dental Officer and Alex Howells the Chief Executive of Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW). Both provided an interesting insight as to how the different components of the dental profession in Wales are embracing the opportunities to improve dental services and tackle the challenges that must be overcome.
It was clear to me that the success and significant progress that has been made is due to the strong quality of leadership in Wales, not just in dentistry, but in the wider healthcare community.
It was encouraging to hear how work is progressing on the implementation of the Welsh oral health plan, 'A healthier Wales', particularly the willingness to address some of the system issues, which are so often a barrier to progress. This was evident to me through the work that is being undertaken on contract reform and the focus on access for patients with the greatest need.
The morning session continued with a number of bilateral discussion groups with stakeholders from Government, Education, registrants and most importantly members of the public. Again, these proved invaluable with many of the discussions focused on how we can ensure public safely and confidence in the profession, with a particular focus around how we can best support new registrants better, across all the professions, to provide safe dentistry in an environment where they feel confident and supported.
Council and executive management team members then spent the afternoon visiting a range of stakeholders including Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff Dental School and Porth Dental Teaching Unit.
I visited two BUPA dental practices in Penarth and Cardiff. At both locations we were able to have insightful and positive meetings with the dental teams around the challenges and opportunities that they face, including how they would like to be kept up to date from the GDC. Their professionalism, energy and enthusiasm to provide the very best dental care to patients was clear in all the discussions we had. I know I speak for all my colleagues who joined me on these visits when I say that we all learned a lot and have taken a number of actions away with us based on the discussions we had.
On day two we held our main Council meeting with the public session attended by around 40 stakeholders and members of the public.
During this session the agenda items covered by Council included the approval of our Annual Report and Accounts, which will be published towards the end of June. Council were also provided with an update on the Estates Strategy including progress on moving our operational teams to our Birmingham hub, which will be complete by November, and our plans to move all our hearing suites to Wimpole Street by early 2020.
The formal Council proceedings were followed by an extensive Question and Answer session chaired by Matthew Hill, Executive Director, Strategy. Stakeholders and members of the public were able to ask a wide range of questions of Council. These varied from the training and support provided to new registrants, joint working with other health regulators, Facial Aesthetics, mutual recognition of professional qualifications post-Brexit, and the GDCs future plans for Scope of Practice.
As a UK-wide regulator we have committed to hold a rolling programme of Council meetings across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with at least one meeting a year being held in one of these regions. The experiences we have had in Cardiff have been very positive and I have already received feedback from a number of the people we met on the impact of our visit. I would like to take the opportunity to thank colleagues who supported our visit, and I look forward to learning of the continued good work and progress being made by the dental team in Wales.