GDC should remain dedicated regulator in reform plans, but opportunity for improvement must be seized
24 January 2018: While there is need for significant improvements to the GDC’s Fitness to Practise processes, and the legal framework which underpins regulation, the GDC should remain the dedicated dental regulator, Dental Protection said today.
In its response to the Department of Health (DH) consultation on the future of professional regulation in healthcare, Dental Protection said change is long overdue - but warned against reform that would see the creation of a ‘super regulator’ or a similar large scale amalgamation which could result in a lack expertise and understanding of the distinct professions. It said there was a strong case for the GDC to remain the regulator for dentists and dental therapist as they carry out high risk interventions within a clinical setting on a daily basis and as such, require a regulator with the requisite experience and expertise.
Dental Protection has however urged DH to use the opportunity to significantly improve the GDC’s Fitness to Practise function and ensure the regulator follows a fair process that patients, dentists and the governments of the UK can have confidence in. It said the legislation which underpins the work of the GDC is outdated and in some areas requires them to conduct their operations in a way that is inefficient and not in the best interest of patients or professionals.
Other improvements Dental Protection said should be considered include:
- Further steps to mitigate the harmful effects of a Fitness to Practise investigation on a dentist’s health and avoid them becoming disillusioned and leaving dentistry
- Consideration of how the regulator can be mandated to conduct Fitness to Practise investigations within a given time frame, perhaps via a Regulators Charter. In 2015/16 the GDC reported that the median time to conclude a case referred for a final hearing (from receipt of the complaint) is 90 weeks. This is too long.
- A Regulators Charter could also specify data that should be published each year to generate greater transparency. The data would include but not be restricted to specific data sets for the average length of time of an investigation, the number of investigations that last for more than 12 months, and the number of cases that last beyond two years.
- Dentistry is heavily regulated and unnecessary burdens should be removed wherever possible. While the question of the need for regulation of dentists and dental therapists has long been settled, the same is not true of other members of the dental team. Therefore, all members of the team should be objectively reassessed to determine the most appropriate form of regulation.
Raj Rattan, Director at Dental Protection, said: said: “We welcome the Government’s desire to drive forward the debate on the shape and structure of healthcare professional regulation. In many areas reform is long overdue.
“After the important question of what organisation should regulate dentists, no issue is of more fundamental importance to the reform debate than Fitness to Practise.
“We support dentists and other healthcare professionals day in day out as they go through this often long, complex process and see the physical and psychological impact. A range of improvements are needed, and this consultation presents a real opportunity to bring the legislation that underpins regulation up to date, while retaining the important statutory safeguards that ensure a transparent, consistent and fair Fitness to Practise process for all.”