Calls for GDC leniency as 33% of dentists say regulatory fears affect mental wellbeing

One in three dentists report fears over regulatory investigation are affecting their mental wellbeing, sparking calls for leniencyOne in three dentists report fears over regulatory investigations are affecting their mental wellbeing, sparking calls for leniency.

Dental Protection is calling on the General Dental Council (GDC) to take a more moderate approach to complaints relating to patient treatment during the pandemic.

In a survey of more than 500 dentists – which was carried out after practices could resume face-to-face care – 33% said their mental health is worse than two weeks ago.

More than half reported that working in unfamiliar conditions is a prime concern. And 33% said the worry of regulatory action is the biggest factor affecting their mental wellbeing.

Stay lenient

In a letter to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), Dental Protection states that the GDC and other regulators need to provide increased reassurance.

‘Dental professionals faced a range of challenges throughout this pandemic,’ said Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection.

‘Many have now returned to practise in equally unsettling and challenging circumstances. For example, working in different ways, worrying about their health and that of their patients, and facing a backlog of patients with problems potentially due to the delay in treatment.

‘The GDC and other regulators proactively issued a joint statement in March. It confirmed they will fully consider the context in which dentists have been practising during this time when reviewing any complaints they receive.’

Taking a toll on wellbeing

He is urging regulators to adopt a ‘more lenient and considered approach’.

‘While we welcomed this statement, we believe members would welcome clear guidance from the PSA,’ he added.

‘This would demonstrate in more detail how the regulators will ensure a proportionate approach will be taken. Especially as it will likely be a number of years before such complaints might be handled. And at a point when memories of this time have faded.

‘A more lenient and considered approach to investigations seems entirely appropriate given the unique circumstances.

‘The pressure and stress involved with working in unfamiliar ways, and the prospect of a regulatory investigation down the line, is clearly taking its toll on dentists’ mental wellbeing.

‘I know more reassurance would be greatly valued by our members who are doing their very best for their patients.

‘I would also like to remind members of our counselling service for those experiencing work-related stress. The service is provided through a third-party partner and is completely confidential.’

No changes to ARF

This comes as the British Dental Association slams the GDC after confirming it will not make changes to the annual retention fee (ARF).

The council said it will not lower the ARF or create a scheme that allows registrants to pay by instalments in response to COVID-19.

In open letter to the GDC chair William Moyes, the BDA greeted the news with ‘great dismay and disappointment’.

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