The RQIA will continue to carry out inspections at dental practices in Northern Ireland, it has confirmed

The RQIA will continue to carry out inspections at general dental practices in Northern Ireland, it has confirmed.

In a letter to the profession this week, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority outlined its plans for future inspections.

It has enforced a number of changes in a bid to ensure inspections are carried out in a ‘sympathetic and supportive way’. These include:

  • Shorter, on-site focused inspections that will last around 90 minutes
  • Flexible times, including outside of practice hours in exceptional cases
  • Support calls four weeks prior to the inspection to address any issues of concern
  • The inspector will wear appropriate PPE, keep two metres from GDP staff and talk to each member for no longer than 15 minutes.

Remote inspections

It also confirmed that the possibility of remote inspections are currently under review.

Acting director of improvement for the RQIA, Emer Hopkins said: ‘We are aware that the timely validation of equipment and updates to staff training may have been delayed over the COVID-19 period. We will take a risk-based and pragmatic approach to these matters provided that reasonable plans are in place.’

Additionally, she added: ‘We have considered the potential of a remote inspection. We would be open to further engagement with representatives of the sector regarding this approach to determine the benefit/burden effect. And to determine whether or not this approach provides us with an acceptable level of assurance.

‘We are currently piloting this method of inspections in other areas of our work.’

The British Dental Association (BDA) has voiced its concerns on the decision. It stated: ‘In recent discussions with RQIA regarding the resumption of on-site inspections, we stressed the need for a sensible and light-touch approach at this difficult time.

‘We’re frustrated to see RQIA take on board few dentists’ concerns.’

The full letter can be read here.