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Interview: “2018 brings a number of challenges for our dental dealers”

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Edmund Proffitt, the new Executive Director of the BDIA. (Photograph: BDIA)
Brendan Day, DTI

By Brendan Day, DTI

Tue. 30. January 2018

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Though the British Dental Industry Association (BDIA) has represented the UK’s dental manufacturers, suppliers and dealers since 1923, it has faced few challenges both as large and as uncertain as the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Dental Tribune International spoke with the BDIA’s new Executive Director, Edmund Proffitt, about how his prior experience with the association has positioned him to succeed in this role, and what the BDIA hopes to achieve in 2018.

As the BDIA’s new Chief Executive, what is your vision for the association?
My vision for the BDIA, as the voice of the dental industry in the UK, is to positively shape the future for our industry going forwards. By engaging widely and effectively with regulators, government departments, politicians, dental professionals, and organisations and associations across the UK, the EU and further afield, we aim to protect and promote the interests of the dental industry, allowing BDIA members to do what they do best and concentrate on running their businesses.

How has your previous role as the association’s policy and public affairs director helped position you to succeed in this new role?
My experience as the policy and public affairs director of the association was, in a sense, the perfect apprenticeship for the top job. It gave me great insights into the industry, the association and, most importantly, its members. It also allowed me to get to grips with the regulatory framework for dental devices and involve me directly in discussions on the medical device regulations with the UK government, EU bodies, and dental manufacturers and distributors. It also gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet and form relationships with all the key stakeholders in dentistry that I am privileged to work with today across the globe.

What activities does the BDIA have planned for 2018, and what are you aiming to achieve with these?
The BDIA has a very busy year planned for 2018. We have categorised our services under the broad headings of communications, community, insight, events, support and education, and will be undertaking activities in all these areas. We will soon be launching a new website, designed to foster a greater involvement with members, a dental community if you like. We have also completely updated our very popular Introduction to Dentistry training course and will be promoting this resource widely. We have a full range of member seminars, conferences and networking events planned throughout the year, and I am hoping to reinstate a BDIA golf day too. We will also continue our multiple UK award-winning advertising campaign raising awareness among the dental profession of the dangers posed by counterfeit and non-compliant dental devices, as well as developing some new areas of marketplace and purchaser data and statistics for our members. So, plenty to do, and plenty of challenges.

What upcoming challenges do you foresee in the near future for British dental dealers, and how will you help to prepare them?
2018 brings a number of challenges for our dental dealers. Many of these are similar to those faced by dealers across Europe, some bespoke to the UK. We are faced with a very challenging and competitive marketplace in the UK. This is compounded by many factors, such as changes in the NHS procurement process, with the introduction of the Future Operating Model, including the NHS’s widespread introduction of GS1 barcodes for products supplied to NHS dental hospitals. We are focusing on new guidance to satisfy the medical device regulation requirements, setting out responsibilities for economic operators, which includes dental distributors. We are looking at how the medical device regulations will impact on dealers in other ways, including chairside and custom manufacturing, and we are helping members get to grips with the new General Data Protection Regulation, and the changes to ISO 13485:2016, on quality systems.

One question about Brexit: how do you assess the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and what would some of the consequences be for the dental market in the UK?
At this stage of the journey, I would suggest we may be in a slightly better situation than some UK industries, as we have at least had some reassurances from UK government ministers regarding the efforts being made to maintain continuity of regulation for medical devices and pharmaceuticals. It’s early days yet, but we will have the medical device regulations built into post-Brexit legislation in the UK, and we are hopeful that all parties will see sense and there will be mutual recognition of standards, notified bodies and easy cross-border trade in dental devices, and hopefully medical devices and pharmaceuticals too. No agreement, hard Brexit, or that sort of outcome would, no doubt, contribute to significantly more complex and time-consuming processes that would not benefit patients or our customers, and would have an impact on product availability, clinical choice and cost.

You have been a member of the Association of Dental Dealers in Europe for quite some time. How important is a unified European voice for the BDIA?
I would say a unified European voice could be more important than ever going forwards. We would like to be as close as we can to the regulatory heart of Europe in the run-up to and post-Brexit, and as part of a European association, we can contribute to this unified voice and stay in close touch with our dealer colleagues across Europe.

Thank you very much for the interview.

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