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The prevalence and nature of recent self-reported changes in general dental practice in a sample of English general dental practitioners

R Watt, P McGlone, D Evans, S Boulton, J Jacobs, S Graham, T Appleton, S Perry, A Sheiham
British Dental Journal 2004 October 9, 197 (7): 401-5; discussion 395
15475902

OBJECTIVE: To determine the extent and types of change in seven domains of dental practice in a sample of English general dental practitioners (GDPs).

METHODS: A postal questionnaire was sent to 561 GDPs on the dental lists of three health authorities in diverse regions of England. Information collected included demographic details on personal and practice characteristics, self-rating of amount of change in the seven domains of practice and factors influencing change.

RESULTS: The response rate was 60%. Fifty-six per cent of the sample were under 40 years old. Over a third of respondents reported "changing a lot or completely" certain clinical activities, practice management arrangements and practice amenities. The highest self-reported level of change was in clinical activities. Of the GDPs who reported changing their clinical activities, 56% reported an increase in preventive care, followed by crown and bridge (44%), periodontics (44%) and endodontics (43%). Practice management rated second in the mean rank scores for self-reported change. The main changes reported were the introduction of computer systems and employment of practice managers. A sizeable percentage (66%) reported increasing the amount of information they provided to patients and the time spent discussing care. Quality assurance activities were the area of practice least likely to have changed over a 5-year period. Over half the sample reported not being involved in any quality assurance activities in the previous 5 years. Those respondents who were younger, had a postgraduate qualification and earned more than 20% of their income from private practice reported higher levels of change.

CONCLUSIONS: General dental practitioners' work patterns are dynamic and appear to be responding to changing needs and demands on their service. The main changes were in the types of clinical procedures being carried out. The low prevalence of changes reported in auditing and peer review activities needs to be investigated further.

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