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01 Jun 2004 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 54

Compulsory CE on the agenda for Singapore

Singapore has moved a step closer to the introduction of compulsory continuing education for dental practitioners with the release of a public consultation document by the Ministry of Health.

In his keynote address to officially open IDEM Singapore 2004, his excellency, Acting Minister for Health and Senior Minister of State for Finance, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, said all dentists owed it to their patients to participate in continuing education to stay current with the latest developments.

The Singapore-born, Australian-educated Minister detailed the rapid transition from third-world to first-world dentistry his homeland had undergone in a single generation and the challenges they face in continuing to build on this strong foundation for future generations.

"The Ministry of Health introduced a system for voluntary Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in 1991. It had a promising start with one in five dentists participating. Now, however, the level has dropped to one in 20," he said.

"There is a limit to voluntary CPD and this is why many countries have made it compulsory. The Singapore Dental Council has recommended that we make CPD compulsory for our dental professionals. In line with my preference for public consultation before a major policy decision is taken, a consultation paper spelling out the rationales and the details of the proposal is now on the Ministry website."

The Minister also detailed the current debate on the establishment of a specialists register in Singapore.

"One in four of our dentists have undergone some form of specialist training," he said. "The question arises as to whether to also introduce a Dental Specialists Register as we did in medicine in 1997.

"The answer is not immediately obvious. What are the benefits? A register can better ensure our dental specialists are well trained, competent and have the appropriate clinical experience. It will facilitate the growth and development of specialized dental practice to manage complex cases. It will allow patients to identify dentists who have specialist skills and expertise in specific areas of dentistry.

"On the flip side, some patients may worry that a register may lead to higher charges by those on the register."

The Minister said there was also debate in the profession with a key issue being whether specialists would then be able to perform procedures outside their specialty. He highlighted that in the USA and UK, for example, where specialists work unrestricted, they spent very little time doing general work.

"General practitioners should always remain the first line of care. They should be the first to be consulted by patients with any dental problem. By managing the bulk of dental problems at the primary care level, Dental GPs can help keep costs low. They have an especially important role to play in preventive dentistry.

"However, all dentists should work within the limits of their professional training and competence. This means that patients with difficult dental problems or requiring complex treatment should be referred to specialists.

"As for specialists, it seems reasonable to expect them to spend the bulk of their time doing clinical work within their specialty. Only by doing this can they keep up their skills and expertise and keep overall dental costs at an appropriately low level."





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