As we write this, negotiations are being extended again. A degree of political pretense is inevitable but a truly comprehensive deal less so.
Unless there is a political earthquake, at 11 pm on the 31st of December, we leave the EU. The UK in reality left eleven months ago but a transition period has made this far less noticeable to date.
Changes from January will vary a little across UK countries, not least Northern Ireland but EU rules and legislation will largely be gone. These include the movement of goods, or people and a regulatory framework.
Whether any aspects are carried over depends on ongoing negotiations. If no deal is the outcome, our links with EU systems will cease.
The Impact On Dentistry
We appreciate that many businesses will see significant change and the dental world is amongst them. Health and safety legislation will diversify, as will data protection, although the practical impact will be more evident.
Funding from bodies such as the European Medicines Agency will go, affecting resources and research. The importing of dental, or other medical equipment and medicines could be impaired for some while.
Neither should we forget that good dentistry is about people and a significant proportion of staff come from, or were trained in the EU.
How Staff Are Affected
Thankfully, legislation has been passed to preserve the status of dental staff already registered with the GDC. The same will apply to anyone who has made an application prior to 31st December 2020.
This measure is however time limited to two years and does not cover anyone who operated on a temporary, or occasional basis. As with any applicant after 31st December, they will be treated as fresh arrivals.
All future entrants will need to go through the assessment process for overseas dental care professionals. Once the two year grace period is over, those currently completing qualifications will be similarly affected.
The Outcome For Patients
There could be cases where visiting specialists feel unable to do so, although broader staff changes will be more significant. Around a fifth of the dental profession in the UK consists of people who trained in the EU.
As with other medical sectors, an increasing number have returned home since Brexit and fewer have arrived year on year. This applies to fully qualified dentists and more so to vital support staff.
A fall in the value of the pound against the euro has made a difference, although wider feelings matter. EU citizens simply feel less welcome, insecure and they have ample alternatives to choose from within the EU.
We believe that established private dental practices will still be able to attract staff, although those in less popular locations, or with an NHS focus will suffer. A position which could become entrenched.
Respected practitioners in cities such as London should be okay but areas which were hard pressed may now entirely fail on provision. With oral health a vital component of wellbeing, hard to see how our nation will benefit.