The GDC should stop acting as a complaints service

Michael Watson believes the GDC should stop acting as a complaints service and stick to being a regulator

Someone in authority should tell the GDC to stick to its job, says Michael Watson.

Last week this site published an excellent article by Jeff Sherer, where he said that ‘the GDC should only investigate the initial complaint and not sift through clinical records to find something to stick’.

I couldn’t agree more, but the more I thought about it the more I asked the question: ‘What is the GDC? A regulator? Or a complaints service?’

As a young dentist put it to me last night, if you don’t like your meal you complain to the restaurant, not local trading standards.

That way you get redress, an apology and maybe something knocked off you bill.

Train complaints

If my train is late, I can claim compensation, and from this summer it can be paid in cash rather than a voucher.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has shown the way that a regulator should work.

At the end of last year it urged all passengers who have been affected by significant travel disruption to claim the compensation they are entitled to.

Note that the Office of Rail Regulation encouraged passengers to complain not to it, but to the rail companies who were responsible.

So, yes, the GDC should encourage patients to complain, but they should be directed to the practice, whose job it is to investigate the complaint and provide redress.

Complaints service

In saying this I am supporting the Law Commissions who, in its recent report, considered whether regulatory bodies should have the power to establish or finance a consumer complaints service.

The Law Commissions concluded that ‘it would not be appropriate for regulatory bodies to have the power to run their own consumer complaints services as it would create a potential conflict of interest with their regulatory functions’.

It continued by saying it was a different matter if regulators had the power to finance a consumer complaints service provided, however, that the service was run by ‘an independent organisation’.

This is, of course the position of the Dental Complaints Service, which resolves problems in a much more efficient way than the GDC’s fitness to practise route.

The Law Commissions considered this approach would allow the regulatory bodies to concentrate on their core regulatory functions, ie dealing with those dentists whose conduct is a danger to their patients.

Rise in complaints

Complaints are rising; the latest NHS figures for Family Health Services (GPs and dental) showed a total of 84,511 received.

Of these less than 10% (7,754) were dental, and in the hospital service, of the 120,778 complaints received, only 837 were dental.

So why are dentists paying their regulator twice as much as doctors do?

Because our regulator, the GDC, is acting as a complaints service, something it’s not supposed to do.

It’s about time someone in authority told the GDC to stick to its job.

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