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GDC publishes first analysis of fitness to practise data

12 November 2017

GDC publishes first analysis of fitness to practise data

The General Dental Council (GDC) has published an analysis of our fitness to practise case data, which was carried out by an independent organisation, and our policy response to the findings. This is the first time that the GDC has carried out an in-depth statistical analysis of its fitness to practise data and marks the first-step in a programme of work aimed at assisting the organisation with its reform to become a better, fairer and more efficient regulator.

In January 2017, the GDC launched Shifting the balance, which sets out the GDC's proposals to reform dental regulation and how we will work collaboratively with our partners to develop a model of upstream regulation that involves professionals and their regulator working together in the interests of patient safety and public protection. As part of this reform programme, we have committed to improving the collection, analysis and use of data and intelligence and to work with partners and the profession to understand what it tells us. Improved data analysis will enable the GDC to develop an intelligence-led approach to upstream regulation. This can be used to identify potential problems and enable the GDC, its partners, and the profession to take steps to address them, therefore reducing the risk of harm.

The outcome of the analysis will feed into the GDC's plans to:

Work with partners to develop a data, intelligence and insight strategy, to support a range of upstream activity, including learning-based regulation, informing CPD choices and developing a risk-based approach to quality assurance of education;

Develop materials for registrants who have trained outside the UK to ease their transition into practising in the UK;

Continue to monitor trends in concerns coming to fitness to practise and understand how the GDC and/or other organisations can better support them to prevent problems arising;

Explore the development of a quality-based model of Continuous Professional Development, based on professionals determining their development needs and the GDC highlighting potential areas of focus through available data and evidence; and

To use existing opportunities to engage with the profession to embed standards and learning.

The report reveals some important insight into the types of cases and dental professionals that appear in fitness to practise. However, this is just one source of information in a complex landscape, and is not, on its own, able to establish the factors that are causing these findings. We will be working closely with our partners to help us understand why we are seeing particular trends in the case data. 

The key findings from the analysis of fitness to practise case data include:

Male dental professionals were more likely than female dental professionals to have been involved in a fitness to practise case;

Dentists were significantly over-represented at all stages of the fitness to practise process, compared to all other registrant groups;

Dentists that came onto the register by taking the Overseas Registration Exam were less likely to be involved in a fitness to practise case compared to their UK qualified counterparts;

Dentists coming on to the register having qualified in an EEA country were overrepresented in fitness to practise; and

The odds of having been involved in an FtP case were 22% higher for dental professionals identifying as 'Asian' or 'Other' compared to those identifying as 'White'.  However, it should be noted that there are significant gaps in this data, as it is provided by dental professionals to the GDC on a voluntary basis. The GDC will be considering how to encourage dental professionals to provide voluntary information so any analysis can provide better insight.

The results will be shared with the GDC's partners, to work together to discuss the findings, and establish areas of future work and collaboration. It will also be used to develop the GDC's internal processes, policy development and external engagement with partners in dentistry to collaboratively formulate solutions to any emerging problems that have been identified.

Jonathan Green, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, at the General Dental Council, said: "This is a major step towards improving our use of data and intelligence to inform upstream regulation initiatives – to improve patient protection, ensure the public maintains confidence in dental services and to better support professionals.

"We made a commitment within Shifting the balance to use data and intelligence to inform our approach to regulation and this statistical analysis of our fitness to practise data is one of the ways we are working to fulfil this. We have already started to use the findings to feed into our ongoing work to deliver our commitments. We will continue fulfilling our commitment to better share data and intelligence with the dental sector by developing a 'state of the nation' report, to be published at the beginning of 2019."

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