Key points from the Professional Standards Authority’s annual review of the General Dental Council
The General Dental Council (GDC) has made ‘significant progress’ in its efforts to meet the Standards of Good Regulation, according to the PSA’s latest annual review.
Having been labelled the worst regulator in 2015 following the PSA’s annual review, the GDC is now meeting 21 of the 24 standards, up from the 15 in the previous year’s review.
The GDC has met all of the standards in relation to:
- Standards and guidance
- Education and training
- Maintaining a register
With regards to the fitness to practise category however, the GDC met only seven of the 10 standards. This is up from the two standards that it met last year. The standards that were not met relate to:
- The time it takes for the GDC to review complaints and prioritise serious cases for referral to an interim orders committee
- Failure to fully explain reasons for a decision
- Information security breaches and data protection
The PSA also identified concerns about the GDC’s performance against three additional standards in the fitness to practise category, which were not met last year, although the standards were met in this year’s review. There were concerns regarding the extent to which the prosecution and hearing process had been focused on public protection.
The GDC has said that it will incorporate lessons learnt into further training for staff and fitness to practise committees and would revise guidance where necessary. For example, the GDC undertook to revise guidance to committees about registrants who fail to have appropriate indemnity cover. There were also concerns about the time taken to progress and conclude cases and failures to keep the parties adequately updated about investigations.
It is of note that a number of standards have been deemed met due to the plans currently in place for reform, rather than the results of those changes. The PSA did not, for example, carry out an audit of the fitness to practise casework this year. This is because the GDC has recently made significant changes to its casework process, such as the introduction of case examiners, who have taken over much of the Investigating Committee’s work.
The Chief Executive of the GDC, Ian Brack, has acknowledged that further improvement is needed, commenting that:
‘if the system of dental regulation is really going to protect patients effectively, be fair to registrants and be cost effective we know that it needs fundamental reform… We can’t count on or wait for legislation to do it all for us… we will be shortly outlining proposals which will set out in detail the further improvements we want to make through our programme of regulatory reform…’
The British Dental Association (BDA) has said that the GDC must not be distracted from fixing its fitness to practise function. BDA research has found that a common source of stress for many GDPs is anxiety over complaints and their fitness to practise.
Mick Armstrong, Chair of the BDA, said:
‘The General Dental Council has a mountain to climb to cast off its reputation as Britain’s least effective and least efficient health regulator…This profession acknowledges signs of progress, but the GDC has no grounds for complacency. Today, a dentist is still expected to pay more than any other healthcare professional for a regulator that still cannot provide an adequate fitness to practise function.’
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