GDC delays have a human cost, the DDU shows

After a review into the GDC's fitness to practise processes, the DDU has urged the GDC to improve its delays.After a review into the GDC’s fitness to practise processes, the DDU has urged the GDC to improve its delays.

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has urged the GDC to improve its fitness to practise processes.

This comes after a review of the GDC was carried out by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).

The PSA review found that the regulator has made insufficient progress in improving the speed of its fitness to practise processes.

As a result, the DDU has urged the GDC to improve its delays.

A human cost

In addition, the DDU has stated that the GDC delays have a human cost.

This comes after two anonymised cases were published by the DDU which show the human impact of the GDC case delays.

The cases have highlighted the stress dental professionals are under when involved in a GDC case. They also demonstrate the slow investigation process of the GDC and the need for the DDU to intervene as a result.

Therefore, the DDU is urging the GDC to re-double its efforts to improve its fitness to practise processes.

One of the cases published by the DDU was a senior dentist who was suspended by over a year and left in limbo. Meanwhile, little progress was made on the investigation of their case. Because of this, the DDU helped to lift the suspension.

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Improvement is required

John Makin, head of the DDU, said: ‘Being involved in an investigation at the GDC can be one the most stressful experiences a dentist has in their career.

‘As the cases we’ve published today illustrate, behind every GDC case and every statistic is a dental professional – as well as their patients, colleagues, family and friends.

‘All of these people can be impacted by the unnecessarily protracted fitness to practise process. This is a point we emphasised strongly in our response to the PSA.

‘Despite repeated assurances, the GDC has yet to succeed in reducing these delays.’

John continued: ‘This is not good enough and improvement is required. We are committed to supporting this in any way we can.

‘We continue to be involved in constructive discussions with the regulator as improvement is in everyone’s interests; the dental team, patients, and the regulator itself.’

In its 2021 Annual Report the GDC stated that the average time for initial hearings to start following referrals by case examiners was 337 days (11 months and two days). This is compared to 296 days in 2020 (nine months and 22 days).

In addition, the number of new GDC concerns in 2021 totalled 1,349. This saw an increase of 19% from 2020 which had 1,134 concerns.

The DDU also pointed out these statistics in response to the PSA’s review.

GDC response

In response to these new findings, a GDC spokesperson said:

‘The Professional Standards Authority reviews our performance every year, and we support them seeking views from our stakeholders.

‘We look forward to seeing the full report when it is published.’

They continue: ‘We agree that fitness to practise cases often take too long to resolve. In large part, this is driven by our outdated and prescriptive legislation, which restricts how we can approach all kinds of things, not least fitness to practise.

‘We also know there are areas of our performance we need to improve and are working hard to do just that.

‘While we await the government’s regulatory reform which is so clearly needed, we will continue our work to improve wherever we can.’

Read the DDU’s member case examples demonstrating the human impact of GDC delays.

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