Is the GDC’s Scope of Practice keeping pace with dentistry?

dental teams scope of practiceJohn Makin welcomes a review of the GDC’s Scope of Practice and explains why this is so important now.

DDU welcomes the findings and conclusions of the GDC’s Scope of Practice Review: Final Report, published in May. The report’s findings showed support from the profession for the continued existence of the Scope of Practice (SoP). But in a more comprehensive format, that the GDC will update more frequently. The GDC will no doubt find it helpful to have such a clear signal from the profession. We look forward to working with it on the next stage the SoP review.

Questions about the SoP are among the most common enquiries DDU dentolegal advisers answer. The application of the SoP to the practice of dentistry by dental care professionals whose roles are constantly evolving, increasingly throws up questions for us. For example about treatments that can be provided within different roles in the team. And about the training, qualifications, and competencies necessary for those changing roles.

Changing scope of practice

While the GDC’s current SoP is admirably clear and comprehensible, it was last revised in 2013. DCP treatments are different now from 2013. Even without the impact of COVID-19 on the profession, it have been likely to change even more over the next few years. It would be difficult for anything other than a live document to keep pace with the fast-changing nature of dental practice. We can no longer rely on the SoP to answer every member’s questions. Increasingly we have to seek clarification from the GDC itself on behalf of members.

Because of this we were delighted when the GDC announced a review of the SoP. We took part enthusiastically in the research and stakeholder events. Sharing our experience of the problems our members encounter, and our thoughts about the potential implications of changes to the scope. The DDU is grateful for the opportunity to provide insights about how our members use the SoP. And to identify gaps and suggest possible solutions. But it is for the GDC to take this further as the regulator setting standards in order to protect patients. We are keen to do whatever we can to assist the GDC. To ensure its guidance about what it requires from and expects of registrants is clear and up-to-date. So that we can help members to understand and ensure they comply with their professional and ethical requirements.


The DDU believes updating the SoP would provide greater clarity for many DCP members about the types of treatment that are appropriate for their roles. This would benefit all our members and we welcome the findings of the SoP review in May. We was of particular interest to see the following statement under the conclusions: ‘Dental professionals and stakeholders were keen for the SoP guidance document to continue to exist. When the scenario of the SoP guidance document no longer existing was aired, they were generally fearful of what would happen in its absence. There were concerns that this could lead to dental professionals acting out of scope. There was less concern amongst a few stakeholders and dental professionals. But they still felt that the SoP guidance document needed to continue to exist.

‘Dental professionals and stakeholders also tend to feel the SoP guidance document should be more comprehensive. And updated more regularly. So it reflects the ever-changing nature of the industry.

‘Dental professionals and stakeholders generally feel that if the SoP guidance document is to continue to exist it needs to be the responsibility of the GDC. They feel as it is outlining the scope of members of the dental team, the regulator needs to own it. Some DCPs added that the GDC should, however, consult all professional bodies and educators.’

Positive steps

We note the GDC’s undertaking on receipt of the report: ‘We will be looking to clarify the purpose of the Scope of Practice guidance. Particularly in light of the fact that it is no longer being used in the way it was intended. And the public or patients are not using it. We will clarify the support needs of dental professionals and what form this support should take. And, once everyone absorbs the suite of evidence, we will invite dental professionals to engage with us on these issues and help us shape any future proposals.’

The DDU sees this as a positive step for the profession. We are keen to engage with the GDC to help it move ahead with the SoP review.

Become a Dentistry Online member

Become a member
Register for webinar
"Company" would like to send you relevant email communications to this webinar, by opting in to receive these emails you are agreeing to be sent email communications by "Company".
You can opt-out at any time.
Add to calendar