GDC versus Williams – the profession reacts

After the High Court overturned the GDC's decision to erase a dentist for charging top-up fees, we hear from people in the profession about what this means for dentistry and the GDC.

After the High Court overturned the GDC’s decision to erase a dentist for charging top-up fees, we hear from people in the profession about what this means for dentistry and the GDC.

The High Court has found that NHS regulations do not forbid ‘top-up’ fees, after the General Dental Council (GDC) struck off a dentist.

Lucy Jane Williams was erased from the register due to professional misconduct allegations including charging ‘top-up’ private fees in addition to NHS charges.

After confirming that ‘top-up’ fees are permitted by NHS regulations, the judge found Williams’ erasure to be ‘procedurally unfair’, and said the regulations are ‘not at all straightforward’.

What does this mean for NHS England and the GDC? We hear thoughts from the profession…

Raz Shafi

It’s about time the draconian NHS and GDC protection racket was effectively brought to justice.

Without doubt, historically, providing a pig iron quality NHS crown was a disgraceful act of manipulation of our profession by people who sought to protect our actions under the guise of GDC regulations and a completely unfit NHS so called contract.

This will hopefully now accelerate the professionals to take control of the profession and rebuff the NHS and bring some sense for dentists to make appropriate and non-political provisions for their patients.

If the GDC wants to support dentistry, it should seriously start listening to dentists and not be swayed by the power mongers in Westminster. No doubt we have a duty of care to our patients irrespective of cost.

We are failing if we do not provide all advice, rather than pussyfooting around statutory rules that are simply doing nothing other than serving politicians’ interests.

Sophia Bow

Regulatory bodies, in my view, should remain independent of each other.

While it is good practice to consider the various regulatory requirements when drawing up your own set of rules, there really should be independence and the total separation of regulatory powers.

Good for the courts.

David Robinson

Topping up NHS fees is a very sensible way of helping patients get treatment that might not otherwise be possible. However, this has always been understood to be a no-no.

Doing this enabled the defendant to have a competitive advantage compared with a practitioner who did the honourable thing and go private and suffer brickbats from elements of the population for doing this. But, that said, I think it is great to have this laid out in law.

Are the GDC going to have to look back at past cases? Reparations for distress, bankruptcy and even suicide? Are individuals in the GDC going to be held accountable? Is it about time governments started to govern and take responsibility for out of control quangos? Ofsted comes to mind…

I hope this judgement is just the beginning, not the end!

Kevin Lewis and Len D’Cruz

NHS England will need to reflect on this decision and amend its guidance accordingly and/or in the longer term amend the regulations. It may require a revision of the way in which the various regulations operate alongside each other; all sides in the case agreed that greater clarity is needed.

The challenge will be to achieve this without constraining patient choice or the ability of NHS practices to remain viable. We are already in the process of seeking answers from NHS England.

There are also significant considerations for the GDC coming out of this case. It will need to reflect on whether this interpretation of the regulation has implications for other historic fitness to practise cases where charges of dishonesty have relied upon registrants’ approaches to mixing NHS and private treatment.

In many cases, that will not be a straightforward assessment, given that there will often have been multiple charges of dishonesty brought. Nevertheless, the regulator has an obligation to review previous approaches.

Click here to read Len and Kevin’s full blog.

What are your thoughts on the GDC versus Williams case? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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