The General Dental Council has launched a consultation outlining proposals for an operational change to the case observations process, which is part of the Fitness to Practise process. The proposals are part of the dental regulator's commitment to developing a system of regulation that is fair and proportionate by improving its Fitness to Practise process.
The proposed changes are to the case observation process, which is completed by the Casework Team when the GDC determines that a complaint, or other information received about a registrant, amounts to an allegation of impaired fitness to practise. The process provides dental professionals with the opportunity to respond to fitness to practise allegations made against them. It is a process focused on achieving transparency and fairness.
Currently, during the case observations stage, we will – in all cases - contact the registrant for their observations on the allegation. When the registrant has responded, the GDC will – again in all cases – return to the informant who made the complaint, and ask for their response to the registrant's observations. In most cases, comments provided by informants at this stage offer no new information and tend to repeat the information first submitted as part of their concern.
The proposed change would be to only invite observations from registrants in all cases. Informants will be invited to comment on the registrant's response if the GDC Caseworker determines it to be necessary. The Caseworker will need to be satisfied that both the registrant and the informant have been given reasonable opportunity to comment and are unlikely to offer any new and relevant information. If the change is adopted, we will update our internal guidance to make clear those situations in which seeking informant observations is appropriate and likely to yield new information or where the informant's direct experience of the events is particularly relevant. For example, where there are serious allegations of sexually motivated behaviour.
The aim of this change is to shorten the case observation stage, therefore streamlining the fitness to practise investigation process. If approved, the changes will be implemented on 1 November 2017.
Jonathan Green, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, at the General Dental Council, said: "The proposal outlined within the consultation, highlights that the caseworker will need to be satisfied that both the registrant and the informant have been given reasonable opportunity to comment and are unlikely to offer any new and relevant information, in all cases.
"The current practice of requesting observations in three rounds, can add several weeks to the process without providing any benefit to the investigation."
The consultation period is six weeks. This is shorter than the GDC's typical 12-week consultation timeframe. This is because both patient and registrant groups have fed back that the fitness to practise process is too lengthy and stressful; there is therefore an obligation upon the GDC to take appropriate measures to address the timeliness and efficiency of its processes.
To take part in the consultation – and to share your feedback – visit: https://gdc.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/case-observations