GDC’s dental education review reveals mixed results

The GDC’s latest review of dental education has revealed that some education providers are finding it difficult to meet requirements of the Council’s Standards of education.

The Annual review of education 2014-16, the Council’s third published review relating to dental education and training, details the work the GDC has carried out to quality assure education and training programmes for dentists or dental care professionals (DCPs).

The review notes that training providers are generally not meeting Standard 17 of the GDC’s Standards of education – namely utilising feedback from variety of sources and using feedback to inform student development.

Moreover, 21% of education programmes inspected required re-inspection.

The review also notes that requirements related to patient protection are on the whole rigorously met, while requirements related to education programme quality management were varied across the programmes tested.

Areas of good practice also included a robust approach to professionalism by offering students preclinical training and placing a strong emphasis on providing regular training for staff.

Headline findings

The key findings from the review are:

  • Dentistry and hygiene and therapy programmes have tended to meet more of the requirements of the GDC’s Standards for education than programmes offering qualifications for other DCP groups
  • Programmes in general have found it difficult to meet Requirement 17 of the Standards, which requires that assessment utilises feedback from a variety of sources, including patients and customers. Whilst many programmes have mechanisms in place to collect feedback, getting meaningful feedback and using it to inform student development has proved challenging
  • Requirements relating to patient protection matters were more likely to be met than other requirements across the Standards.  The GDC said it is ‘reassuring’ to see that patient protection issues are a focus for providers, and its inspections highlighted many instances of
    good practice
  • There is wide variation in the rigour of arrangements for the quality management of programmes. Many providers have only informal procedures in place, and some DCP programmes tend to rely on their small student and staff size being conducive to trusting relationships
  • Many providers continue to have major issues with ensuring students have access to an adequate number of patients from different ages and backgrounds, and with different treatment needs
  • Many providers are not presenting a full and coherent mapping of the programme against the GDC’s learning outcomes and, coupled with this, there is evidence of the need for more detailed and thorough blueprinting of assessments for many providers
  • Over the past four years, 21% of programmes inspected have required a re-inspection. Following a re-inspection, programmes have demonstrated significant improvement: average improving in 50% of requirements.

Areas of focus

During the academic years 2014/15 and 2015/16, the GDC conducted a total of 66 visits to educational programme providers.

The report identified good practice, areas for development and learning points for both education providers and the GDC.

Specifically, in 2014/15 the GDC inspected 14 programmes across 33 individual visits and in 2015/16 the organisation inspected 12 programmes across 30 visits. 

As a result of the findings, the GDC said it will focus on improving the collection and use of meaningful feedback from patients, and making sure students are able to provide a service to a sufficient number of patients from a range of age groups and backgrounds that have different treatment needs, as key points of development within the sector.

‘The GDC welcomes the focus on patient protection for education providers, which reflects the first principle for the dental team: put patients’ interests first’, commented Ian Brack, the GDC’s chief executive and registrar.

‘This focus will help to prepare students for professional life as dentists or dental care professionals.

‘However, as noted in previous annual reviews, many providers are not presenting a full map of their programmes against the GDC’s learning outcomes and, to improve, there needs to be a more detailed and thorough detailing of the assessments taking place.

‘We would also like to see clear and consistent procedures in place for concerns to be raised, incidents monitored and recorded.’

Next steps

The Council said it will be engaging with education providers to help them to keep improving the training of dental professionals across the UK.

A part of this will be reviewing the GDC’s approach to quality assurance to ensure that we are applying our resources in the right places as part of our plans to reform dental regulation, set out in its document, Shifting the balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation.

The GDC’s Annual review of education 2014-16 can be read in full here.

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