GDC launches pilot to ‘improve timeliness’ of fitness to practise processes

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The General Dental Council (GDC) has launched a pilot to ‘improve proportionality and timeliness’ of fitness to practise processes.

Announced today, the GDC is launching a pilot that will test a change to the initial stages of its fitness to practise processes to improve proportionality and timeliness.

Process changes are being made to the way investigations are carried out in certain cases. This is to help to resolve issues faster while continuing to effectively maintain public safety and confidence in the dental profession.

The regulator says it wants to ensure matters which do not pose a risk to public safety or confidence are concluded as quickly as possible. The change in process being piloted will help ensure the regulator is fully informed of all relevant facts as early as possible, ensuring that only issues amounting to a fitness to practise concern are fully investigated.

Aim of the pilot

The pilot will run for six months starting today (4 September). It will be applied initially to single patient clinical practice cases, where the dental professional involved has no previous fitness to practise concerns, but may be expanded during the pilot.

The GDC’s current legislative framework effectively requires all matters relating to the clinical practice of a dental professional to be referred from the initial assessment stage to assessment for an investigation. Considerable effort and resources are then allocated to gathering information, whether or not it is required, to reach a decision.

The change being piloted is designed to limit the information gathered to what is specifically required in each case. In these cases, that will normally be the patient’s clinical records.

The aim is to reduce the time it takes to conclude low level issues. The process will rely on being able to access records quickly, so the cooperation of dental professionals and their representatives is needed if the pilot is to succeed.

Feelings of mistrust

John Cullinane is executive director of fitness to practise. He said: ‘We know our investigations can be complex and take a long time and that they can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those involved. We also know that lengthy investigations, about what can be perceived as minor issues, can lead to feelings of mistrust and frustration in the fitness to practise process.

‘We will continue to try and improve our processes within the current legislation, and we hope that by working with others, we can make some significant improvements in timeliness without affecting the outcomes of these investigations.

‘Our own analysis tells us that cases that would fall into the scope of this pilot do not normally progress beyond our assessment stage, so we hope this small change will make a big difference.’

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