We are not alone

In addition to the debate initiated by Dentistry on the General Dental Council (GDC), the British Dental Association (BDA) has published its own survey of members.

Four out of five of its members are not confident that the GDC is regulating dentists effectively.

In addition thousands of comments were added.

It is a fair bet that many of these deplored the fact that it is chaired by a lay person and dentists are in a minority on the council.

The time has moved on from when the GDC president, always a dentist, was recognised as the leader of the profession and we could describe ourselves as self-regulating.

To find out why this changed we must go back to the unique case of Dr Harold Shipman.

He was jailed in 2000 for killing 15 of his patients, but a subsequent report, by judge Dame Janet Smith, found that he had definitely killed another 215 and possibly 200 more than that.

Dame Janet published five reports in all between 2002 and 2005, but it was her fifth report that changed the constitution of the General Medical Council (GMC), and subsequently all the other healthcare regulators.

She recommended that the ‘fitness to practise’ role should be separate from the council and also that ‘medical members do not have an overall majority’, that they should be appointed by ‘the Public Appointments Commission following open competition'.

Dentists followed the doctors and eight years down the line we found ourselves with a lay chair and a council of 12, of whom only four are dentists.

However, we are not alone; when large industries were privatised in the 1980s/1990s, a series of regulators were set up to oversee the new companies.

Following the MPs’ expenses scandal, an independent regulator was appointed.

Three years ago the first non-policeman was appointed the chief inspector of constabulary.

The media, the city and many others now have regulators, most of whom do not come from the industry concerned.

Lawyers have criticised the prime minister for appointing a non-lawyer as justice minister and Lord Chancellor, in addition they have pointed out that the new attorney general and solicitor general are both junior barristers.

So we are not alone.

Regulation by lay people is something we are going to have to live with it seems.

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