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Guest Editorial - Bureaucracy Gone Mad

17 July 2015

Guest Editorial - Bureaucracy Gone Mad

Hello readers and welcome to this weeks newsletter! This week, we are delighted to welcome back Neel Kothari, who has written a guest editorial based on two more cases brought before the GDC which led to two registrants being struck off. Take it away, Neel...

Many of you don’t know who Robin Lee is and, until a few days ago, I didn’t either. Mr Lee is a London based artist who was recently arrested for charging his phone on a London overground train, spotted by a police community support officer (PCSO) and then arrested on the charge of abstracting electricity, to the value of 0.052p to be exact.

Perhaps this is a just interpretation of the rule of law, but it’s hard to hear about such events and not feel sympathy for Mr Lee, who was simply trying to charge his phone.

Equally, it’s hard to hear the stories of David Albert Drabwell and Susan Meens without a slight sense of commiseration for what they have gone through. Who are David and Susan? Well David is a technician who has for the last 55 years worked in the Harley street area and Susan is a nurse… sorry, dental care professional.

Both of them have been struck off for failing to complete their CPD requirements.

In David’s case, the Registration Appeals Committee found that he had failed to meet his CPD commitments during his 5 year cycle, but acknowledges that he had explained that he was unable to do this for personal reasons.  Susan on the other hand was struck off for failing to meet her target by 8 hours.

In my opinion this is an absolutely disgusting interpretation of the current rules. In both cases there was no evidence that their competency was in question, yet for whatever reason both registrants have had their livelihoods shattered for such trivial matters. The Latin law term ‘culpae poenae par esto’ comes to mind, which translates to ‘let the punishment fit the crime’. This isn’t corporate fraud or gross misconduct; this is simply a case of life getting in the way and a couple of people needing a helping hand rather than having their souls dragged through the mud in the name of due process.

When will the GDC realise that the whole CPD system is a joke? I can receive a CPD certificate just for listening to a sales rep sell me their brand of toothpaste, yet the active ingredient in Tesco’s own brand 25p toothpaste is just the same as the leading manufacturer's and is probably better value for money. Is this really CPD?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of real CPD and I’ve completed quite a few post graduate courses since leaving university so I know my own record is pretty good – but this whole game of meeting an arbitrarily chosen figure on a 5 year cycle really doesn’t prove anything.

Sure the GDC can point to legislation written up by well-paid lawyers to justify their verdict, but they are completely missing the point, which is that regulation in its essence should be about protecting patients, not needlessly damaging people’s lives for the good of no-one. I’m not saying that David and Susan are in the right, but I am saying that the GDC have gone for the nuclear option when a simple slap on the wrist would do.

Whilst the views expressed here are my own, it’s worth noting that they are also in line with a recent Professional Standards Authority report about the GDC, which reported that in 2014/15 the GDC only fully met only one of the 10 Standards of Good Regulation for fitness to practise.

The PSA report also stated: ‘The GDC has reported to us that in 2014/2015, the median time taken from receipt of a complaint to the conclusion of the final fitness to practise hearing was 93.3 weeks. This is more than the majority of the regulators we oversee.’  The heartache and misery that both of these registrants have gone through, not to mention the stress placed upon their loved ones, really needs to be properly addressed. The verdicts mean everyone knows the GDC’s stance on CPD – it also means that the profession is now without a perfectly good nurse and technician to serve the public.

I find it shocking that the GDC have decided to pursue issues like this rather than demonstrate a right touch approach to regulation. If this is really about protecting the public, why have the GDC stayed so silent following the 2006 contract, which in part resulted in root canal therapy plummeting, single tooth dentures shooting through the roof and periodontal conditions being treated with stainless steel forceps instead of scalers?

I have no doubt that the verdicts are in line with the rules that the GDC sees fit to enforce, but in truth from time to time any one of us is capable of falling short of the standards we aim to achieve. Given the recent PSA report, the GDC above all should be well aware of this.   

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