The Dentists Act 1985 provides for the promotion of high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists so that patient health and safety are safeguarded and legislates for the regulation of dentists in Ireland. The Act makes provision for the conduct of fitness to practise inquiries into complaints of professional misconduct or of unfitness to engage in the practice of dentistry.
While the drafting of the Scheme of a new Dental Bill to modernise the Dentists Act 1985 has begun within my Department, priority has had to be given to the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill, which completed Dáil Committee Stage on 25 September 2019. This Bill provides for amendments to all five health professional regulatory Acts, including the Dentists Act, as a consequence of the transposition of the Modernised Professional Qualifications Directive, and to address a number of other issues. In relation to the Dentists Act, the Bill provides for the introduction of a number of significant patient protection measures. These include:
- Providing for the mandatory publication of sanctions, unless publication has been restricted by the Court, thereby allowing patients to make informed decisions regarding their choice of healthcare professional.
- Providing for the separation of qualification recognition from registration in the Dentists Act. Currently where a dentist’s qualification has been recognised, he or she must be registered. This separation will allow the Dental Council to introduce language and fit and proper person controls before registration, further safeguarding public health and safety.
- Requiring dentists to make declarations, at registration and annually, about sanctions or restrictions imposed by regulators in other jurisdictions which can be used as grounds for complaint in fitness to practise proceedings in Ireland.
- Providing that information on sanctions or convictions in another State will, for the first time, be admissible as evidence in fitness to practise inquiries in Ireland.
The work on the modernisation of the Dentists Act in its entirety will progress once the Regulated Professions Bill has completed its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas, and has been enacted.