GDC Sees ‘The Light’

Law & Regulation
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GDC “Moving Upstream” Conference: Part One

12th February 2020: The Light, the central conference hall of the prestigious Friends’ House in Euston, London, was chosen as the venue from which the General Dental Council (GDC) outlined its plans for the future with a series of panel sessions, while also inviting input from a room full of opinion leaders, academics, students and more from the dental profession and beyond.

Themes covered included:

• Public and patient expectations of professionalism

• How the GDC will demonstrate its commitment to ‘Right Touch’ regulation

• The future challenges for dentistry and protecting the public

Fitness to Practice and Education

But first, after an introduction by GDC Executive Director of Strategy, Stefan Czerniawski, the rostrum was taken Dr William Moyes, Chair of Council. Dr Moyes highlighted the importance of the GDC creating an open dialogue between the Council and stakeholders, in order to simplify the process of regulation and make it fairer for registrants.

The new corporate strategy will see a shift away from the GDC being used as the principal line of redress for complaints to a more localised system of problem solving.

The dental practice should be encouraged to welcome first tier complaints in-house to help ensure they don’t end up in the triage pathway for Fitness to Practice (FtP), with all that entails in the way of stress for the dental care professional involved, and cost for the Council, which puts pressure on all registrants due to its effect on their annual retention fee (ARF).

Only issues that might genuinely impact a registrant’s fitness to practice, and puts patient safety at risk, should be brought before the GDC. Everything else should be addressed in other ways, preferably through the practice’s HR and complaints handling procedures. No matter how large – or small – the practice is, access to such procedures must be provided, and made clear to the patient.

The Council is fully committed to the local resolution of complaints. A strategic review by the Dental Complaints Service, an impartial and fair initiative funded by the GDC, discovered that, by the year 2018, complaints received each year has fallen from 900 to 600, since the peak of demand in 2009.

Importantly, the number of FtP referrals made to the GDC had also fallen from 352 in 2015 to just 57 in 2018. Dr Moyes explained how the work done to continue improving the mediation service is paying off, and more complaints are now being resolved at an earlier stage, reinforcing the message that complaints can, and are, being resolved at a local level.

Should the problem finally reach the GDC, work has also been undertaken to accelerate the FtP process itself. The plan is to simplify the language in order to help both registrants and the public better understand the process, while providing a template for a more effective, systemwide approach to complaint handling and resolution.

On other subjects; Dr Moyes explained that the GDC is also creating a mechanism for the regular review of learning outcomes, which starts in early summer this year. The regulator will take a more bespoke approach towards working with education providers, and research the best outcomes for any learning undertaking by registrants.

Dr Moyes concluded by promising greater efficiency from the GDC, while it builds on its existing relationships to support improvement and development for regulation – while also taking into account the hurdles thrown up by the political arena, such as Brexit and its potential effect on the healthcare workforce.

The GDC is looking forward to greater engagement with the dental profession as a whole, to work together for the protection of the public and to better address key issues including those of professionalism, and Right Touch regulation.

Next: What does professionalism look like?