Continuing professional development (CPD) has become an integral part of all dental professionals’ lives. Designed to play an important role in ensuring their skills and knowledge are kept up to date, CPD contributes to patient safety and is intended to support the provision of good quality care. Whatever your thoughts may be about the importance of CPD to your own professional life, it is never-the-less a requirement, set out in law, necessary to the maintenance of every dentist’s and DCP’s GDC registration, so in reality there is little choice but to comply.
CPD is big business within dentistry. A study undertaken on behalf of the GDC in 2013 estimated that the value of the CPD industry in UK dentistry to be around £57m per year, and alongside the postgraduate dental deaneries there are currently an estimated 550 CPD providers, both commercial and non-commercial.
Not only is a great deal of money spent on CPD, but it can also take up a lot of an individual’s time, both professionally and personally. Dentists are currently required to carry out at least 250 hours of CPD every five-year cycle, a minimum of 75 hours of which must be verifiable. DCPs must complete at least 150 hours, of which 50 must be verifiable. Each group is required to keep records of that cycle for a further 5 years.
So although dentists and DCPs know what they must do to comply with guidelines on CPD, it has become obvious that the structure lacks any real framework that helps them judge whether a particular course, lecture, event or webinar is value for money, effective and fit for purpose. Indeed many would argue that there has been a fairly ‘laissez faire’ attitude towards CPD, which has developed a reputation for being awarded without any real regulation, control, or specific guidance on what is and what is not acceptable.
However all this seems set to change. In August 2014 the UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors (CPOEND) launched a consultation into a UK-wide Quality Assurance Framework for CPD in Dentistry. It questioned the significant amount of time and money dentists and DCPs have to spend on CPD and investigated the issues around quality control, exploring how individuals are expected to make value judgments about the quality or otherwise of a particular conference or course. The consultation document queried, amongst other things, how dental professionals could know if speakers or lecturers were qualified to talk about a particular subject, whether their information was unbiased and up to date, and whether current GDC requirements were properly being met?
The consultation resulted in COPEND’s Quality Assurance Framework for Dental CPD that was published in November 2014, designed to support both providers of CPD and dental professionals themselves. Offering a structured approach to assessing whether appropriate standards were being met, the framework was welcomed by the GDC in a 2015 press release that also emphasised GDC calls on CPD providers to develop and work to specified standards in dentistry and provide quality assurance for dental CPD.
As someone committed to the role of education in developing professional skills and knowledge, I am reassured to see that the value of CPD is finally being officially recognised and that teaching and training standards will be monitored. It seems obvious to me that CPD must have some real educational value, otherwise it becomes a waste of resources and loses credibility. But this also puts an important emphasis on the quality of the education and the qualifications of the educators themselves.
Courses offering verifiable core CPD are of great importance to those registered with the GDC, but we shouldn’t forget that quality training and education is relevant to every member of the dental team, whether they have a requirement to be registered or not. For those unregistered individuals working within dentistry alternative forms of accreditation other than CPD also have significant educational value.
The GDC advice sheet Quality controls for verifiable CPD published last year, offers guidance to both dental professionals and CPD providers. It states: “We call on the dental CPD industry to be proactive in working together to develop industry-led quality standards to give dental professionals, as CPD consumers, assurances about their products and services.” In other words a CPD provider needs to be more than just a promotional vehicle for a specific company or product, they need to provide educational validity and substance, linking theory with practical training.
Third party validation is one way of ensuring the quality of training and education and City & Guilds accreditation is one such option that gives a mark of quality for the training received, as well as providing a transferable qualification for individuals as they progress along their career path. With so many education and training courses on offer it can be difficult for any member of the dental team to decide which one is best suited to their specific requirements, so such an accreditation can provide an important benchmark when making that choice.