GDC plans to streamline complaints handling

The General Dental Council (GDC) is pushing for legislative change to bring in a range of further reforms aimed at streamlining the way it handles complaints about dental professionals.

The proposed changes mark phase two of a raft of reforms of the GDC’s Fitness to Practise (FtP) processes.

In September, a number of policy changes were agreed that didn’t need legislative amendments and these are currently being implemented.

However, there are others that will require alterations to the provisions of the Dentists’ Act and its accompanying rules. These include the introduction of ‘case examiners’ who will be able to:

* Conclude a case with no further action

* Issue a letter of advice

* Issue a warning letter (and where appropriate direct that the letter be published)

* Refer the case to one of the Practice Committees

* Request an assessment of health or performance

* Refer cases to the Interim Orders Committee

* Revoke orders made by the Interim Orders Committee (in certain circumstances)

* Agree and monitor undertakings (in certain circumstances);

* Make decisions on requests for voluntary removal from the register when a registrant is under investigation

* Cancel a referral (in certin circumstances).

Earlier this month, the Council agreed that the reforms should be put to the Department of Health for inclusion in a Section 60 Order – the instrument necessary to change the Dentists’ Act.

The GDC has conducted a preliminary consultation with key stakeholders already and a full consultation will be conducted in early 2012.

Neil Marshall, director of regulation at the GDC, said: ‘These changes mark the latest steps in a complete overhaul of the GDC’s complaints handling processes. They are aimed at improving timeliness and proportionality and ultimately ensuring patient protection.’

The Department of Health has indicated that a Section 60 Order will be published in early 2012 and priority will be given to changes aimed at increasing public protection and reducing costs.

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