CQC outlines registration requirements for online orthodontic providers

The Care Quality Commission (the CQC) has released details of its registration requirements for providers of ‘direct-to-consumer’ orthodontic treatment, also referred to as online or remote orthodontics.

Concentrating on these virtual dental services, the CQC said it wanted to “clarify the registration requirements for this type of care”. The reason for this, the update states, is that “technology enables services to deliver care in new ways” but that “people still have the right to receive high-quality, safe care – regardless of how it is delivered”.

Now that providers are increasingly offering some types of care remotely, a scenario which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent restrictions of routine in-person treatments, the CQC explains that it considers “orthodontic treatments provided to patients following an intra oral scan or when a patient has taken impressions themselves” to be “regulated activity” in the same way as “treatment planning and diagnosis associated with aligners”.

According to the CQC, the activities come under the “regulated activities of Treatment of disease, disorder or injury and Diagnostic and screening procedures,” meaning any service or provider carrying out “what the law describes as a regulated activity”, must be registered with them.

“To register with us,” it adds, “providers must assure us that they are able to provide safe and effective care in line with relevant legislation and guidance”  and states that any non-CQC-registered providers can be prosecuted under Section 10 of the Health and Social Care Act.

“We will work with our colleagues in the GDC [General Dental Council], dental professionals, service providers and people who use services to understand the developments in how services are delivering care,” it concluded.

Last year, the CQC published its developing strategy, which focused on changes the regulator wanted to make, including in regard to the impact of digital transformation and new services –  as well as how it plans to regulate new innovations and technology effectively.

In the draft strategy the regulatory body had highlighted the challenges ahead for operating in a digital and non-digital hybrid world. It stated: “We know the path to innovation is difficult; we want to use what we know as a regulator to create an environment where services can try new ways to deliver safe, high- quality care. We’ll support their efforts to improve care through clear advice and guidance and, with our partners, by taking a coordinated approach to regulating innovation in a proportionate way.”

The CQC later published its ‘A new strategy for the changing world of health and social care – CQC’s strategy from 2021’ in full in May of this year, amassing its learnings from the past five years and setting out its new aims.

In its ‘smarter regulation’ section, the body says: “We’ll keep pace with changes in health and care, providing up-to-date, high-quality information and ratings for the public, providers and all our partners…we’ll regulate in a more dynamic and flexible way so that we can adapt to the future changes that we can anticipate – as well as those we can’t.”

Regarding its efforts around ‘adapting to change’ the CQC adds in its strategy that “we’re evolving and adapting to changing models of care, such as integrated care systems and digitally-enabled care” and that it will “work with service providers, partners and other regulators to align our activity, understand how care is changing and ensure that our regulatory model keeps pace with changes.”

On the registering of services, it adds: “We’ll be better able to hold organisations to account for people’s care. We’ll expand our definition of what we consider to be a provider of care and what it means to carry on a regulated activity. This will make sure that we register all the parts of an organisation that are responsible for directing or controlling care; and importantly, this will make sure they can be held accountable.

To read the latest ‘direct-to-consumer’ orthodontic registration requirements, click here.

The CQC’s 2021 strategy is also available in full, here.