The RQIA is the independent regulatory body for Northern Ireland. Here’s what NI dentists should be aware of…
The Regulation and Improvement Authority (Independent Healthcare) (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 came into effect on 1 April 2011.
The basic requirements
In short, the Regulations require providers of private dental care and treatment in Northern Ireland to be registered with the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (the RQIA). The RQIA monitors the quality of services via a planned programme of inspections and reviews, with the aim of improving care, informing the population of their rights and influencing policy with regard to the National Health Service in Northern Ireland. Effectively, establishments providing dental care or treatment will be subject to the requirements of the Health and Personal Social Services (Quality Improvement and Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and will be registered in the same category as independent hospitals.
Exemption for National Health Service dentistry
There is an exclusion from regulation for dental practices delivering exclusively NHS services. Dental practices must be very careful if they are stating that they deliver exclusively NHS services. If a person who carries on a dental practice and is required to register with RQIA does not do so, and continues to provide private dental services, they are committing an offence and are liable to prosecution.
How to register
Dental practices which have not been operational before 1 April 2011 must be fully registered with the RQIA prior to commencing provision of private treatment and services. Those which have been operating prior to 1 April 2011 may continue to provide private dental treatment until they are registered with the RQIA. The completed application pack, which will be sent to all dental practices by the RQIA, or a certification of exemption form (for those who are not continuing to practice) should be returned to the RQIA by 13 May 2011.
The dental practice must demonstrate that it is meeting appropriate general standards of quality and safety in all of its regulated activities. As part of the registration process, the RQIA will assess the suitability and fitness of people, organisations and premises to operate a safe service. Whilst the RQIA is registering dental practices, specific individuals within the practices will also need to make an application for registration. The ‘responsible person’ who must make the application will depend on whether a practice is single handed, a partnership or part of an organisation. This responsible person will be held accountable for any failings with the service.
If a number of practices are owned either by an individual, a partnership or an organisation, a separate application and a separate fee is needed for each practice. A registered manager may also be required to be registered with the RQIA.
The fee for registration of a person carrying on an establishment will be £952, with the fee for a person seeking to be registered as a manager, £261. Fees will then be incurred on an annual basis of £46 per practice chair. The RQIA must ensure that service provision is of a suitable quality which will be carried out in a two stage process, a registration self assessment and preregistration inspection of the practice. It may be that the practice will be satisfactory; that there are a number of requirements and recommendations made that must be met but the practice is allowed to operate; or that there will be a number of issues that would be of risk to a patient that must be addressed and there will be refusal of registration until these issues have been addressed. There will be an annual inspection, as a minimum, or more often if a risk is identified. Inspections will usually be announced but can be unannounced.
The Minimum Standards for Dental Care and Treatment
The implementation of the new Regulations ties in with the publication of the Minimum Standards for Dental Care and Treatment in March 2011. The Minimum Standards document has been produced for patients and is fairly straightforward. Essentially, the Minimum Standards document covers both Health Service and private dental care and explains that the delivery of dentistry in Northern Ireland will be monitored against these standards by the RQIA and the NHS. The Minimum Standards document establishes fifteen dental standards which are categorised under the following corresponding quality themes: Accessible, flexible and responsive services; Safe and effective care; Effective communication and information; Promoting protecting and improving health and social well-being; and Corporate leadership and accountability. Every dental practice, whether providing exclusively Health Service, private or mixed dental treatment and care, will have to comply with these minimum standards. The provision of any item of private dental treatment will be a requirement for registration with RQIA.
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