GDC “Worst performing healthcare regulator”

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The recent spell of murky weather has cast a pall of gloom over the UK’s 2015 summer holiday season, but in comparison with the battering the General Dental Council (GDC) has been taking recently the rest of us are swimming in calm tropical waters.

In a recent performance assessment of nine healthcare regulators the GDC scored the lowest. This fact adds further misery to the existing woes of the beleaguered organisation, coming as it does so soon after its review court hearing and a House of Commons Health Committee hearing regarding its performance.

A report issued in June by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) noted that the GDC had failed to meet a total of seven of its standards of good regulation, which it described as a significant decline in the regulator’s performance compared to 2013/14. If the GDC was looking at its Standard of performance in the same way it does its registrants it would surely have called itself up for a Fitness to Practice procedure by now, then suspended itself before it did any more harm.

The PSA has issued a demand for the Government to take action regarding outdated regulation, after publishing a recent report calling for radical changes to expensive healthcare regulation entitled Rethinking Regulation.

Chair of the British Dental Association (BDA), Mick Armstrong, backs the PSA's report, stating that tens of millions of patients are served by over a million healthcare practitioners in Britain, but patients and practitioners deserve better, because political intransigence is letting “antiquated laws remain as standard practice, costing time and money”.

Armstrong then opined that those in charge of major healthcare regulators were earning large sums of money and enjoying power without responsibility, but it was time to put the patients first. He said, “We need to see a clear focus on the fundamentals, protecting patients, building firm foundations, [and] not succumbing to inexorable mission creep.”

GDC CEO Evlynne Gilvarry responded by saying that her organisation could only go so far under current regulations, and called for a change in the law. She may just get her wish. These changes could be taking place soon. The Law Commission has recommended that regulatory bodies be given more operational autonomy, including more powers to make legal rules without approval from Government or Parliament. It has also recommended greater reliance on oversight from the PSA to help ensure consistent outcomes.
Previous experience has shown that the GDC is as happy as a puppy in a puddle when allowed to go its own way, and giving it even greater autonomy will be sure to put a smile on the senior Executives’ faces, but will it sit still for greater oversight from the PSA? Only time will tell.