Who is monitoring the regulator? – the GDC under scrutiny

We know the GDC is under scrutiny by its regulator at the moment. However, it needs more powers, argues Julian English.

Currently there is a consultation on regulating professionals and protecting the public being run. This is being conducted by the Department of Health and includes all professions’ regulators.

I am joined by the Dental Defence Union (DDU). They say that reform of the healthcare regulators should include giving the GDC powers to set up a separate and independent tribunal. This is to decide whether dental professionals are fit to practise.

This is absolutely vital and could represent a significant move, once it is set up and running. It could restore full confidence in the GDC with the general dentistry profession.

A separate body

Indeed any proposals that can streamline and make open and fair the fitness to practise procedures will be welcome by indemnity providers and the profession alike.

John Makin, head of the DDU explained: ‘The welcome intention behind these proposals is to give healthcare regulators greater flexibility, particularly in the management of fitness to practise procedures.

‘At the moment the GDC performs both the role of investigator and adjudicator of complaints. We believe the regulator should be given the powers to establish a separate, independent body. To decide whether a registrant is fit to practise, akin to how the GMC operates with the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

‘This would help to ensure the GDC is at arm’s length from decisions about whether a dental professional is fit to practise. This would go some way to reassuring dental professionals about the objectivity of the process. In addition, unlike the GMC which does not ordinarily investigate complaints that date back more than five years, the GDC can do so.

‘This means, therefore, that dental professionals can be subjected to fitness to practise proceedings for historic complaints. This is at great human and financial cost. The government is suggesting that this five-year rule is scrapped for healthcare regulators like the GMC. They have this safeguard in place. Instead, we believe it is imperative that such safeguards are retained and expanded to include GDC cases.

‘This is a great opportunity for the GDC to become a more responsive and flexible regulator. We also hope the government and GDC seize the considerable opportunities presented in the consultation for much needed reform.’

This article first appeared in Private Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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