BDA tells GDC to focus on fixing fitness to practise process

BDAThe British Dental Association (BDA) has told the General Dental Council (GDC) to focus on fixing its fitness to practise processes.

This comes after the GDC launched its discussion document Shifting the balance, which sets out the regulator’s future plans over the next three years.

However, the BDA has told the GDC to refocus its efforts on improving its fitness to practise process, after 71% of the 2,300 dentists who took part in the associations own survey made this their number one priority for the regulator.

‘We asked dentists what they would change about dental regulation,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.

‘They painted a picture of an overbearing regulator that really needs to focus.

‘Dentists want a watchdog that can get the basics right, and that has to start with fitness to practise.

‘Talk of expanded remits and “State of the Nation” reports are the wrong priorities when the GDC cannot deliver on the fundamentals.’


Only 19% of the respondents to the BDA’s survey said the GDC’s signature concept of ‘upstreaming’ was a top priority.

The GDC’s signature concept of ‘upstreaming’ involves focusing on reducing the likelihood of harm arising in the first place and dealing with complaints at the practice.

The BDA survey also showed that the dental profession are open minded about plans to merge all health regulators into one ‘super-watchdog’ health regulator, with two-thirds of respondents saying they would support a move.

‘Colleagues appear open-minded about upstreaming,’ Mick Armstrong continued.

‘There is a place for blue-sky thinking in regulation and we recognise that fixing things before they get to the regulator makes sense for patients and practitioners alike.

‘But it is the view of this profession that the GDC’s core statutory responsibilities must come first.

‘Our members would like to support a dental-only regulator, but not at any cost.

‘Dentists are realists when it comes to plans for merger, and clearly many doubt the GDC is capable of putting its own house in order.

‘We will be equally pragmatic as we continue to push for a regulator capable of working with and understanding this profession.’


Headline points from the BDA survey

  • Confidence – confidence among dentists in the GDC’s ability to deliver on its reform agenda remains low, with 87% of respondents to our survey neither ‘confident’ nor ‘very confident’ in the council
  • Priorities – fixing fitness to practise is the top priority of dentists, with 71% of respondents putting it as the number one priority for reform. Other planned changes such as expansion of the Dental Complaints Service, providing information about dentistry for the public, and a regular state of the nation report on dentistry, were each viewed as top priority by less than 4% of respondents
  • Upstreaming – respondents were open minded about ‘upstreaming’. This was a top priority of 19% of respondents, and the second most important priority after getting FTP right
  • Merger – 65% of respondents expressed a preference for a dedicated dental regulator – but a similar proportion (62%) said they would support an amalgamated health care regulator if greater efficiencies could be achieved
  • The Annual Retention Fee – the ARF was raised in 2014 specifically on the basis of anticipated complaint levels and FTP action in 2015 and 2016. This was contentious at the time, but now that complaint levels have not increased as predicted, 88% of respondents support a reduction and 82% of respondents would support the ability to have the option to pay the ARF by monthly or quarterly instalments – even if this could mean a slightly higher fee.
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