As part of our Saving Grace campaign, one dentist opens up about the impact the current regulation has had on three members of her team – and why this needs to change.
The primary purpose of the GDC is to protect the public and maintain professional standards. I don’t think anyone would argue with this ethos. However, I would like to share with you the experiences of three key members of staff at the private dental practice in North Derbyshire where I have worked as an associate for over 20 years.
The events in question relate to the DCPs’ last five year cycle of CPD, which ended in August 2022. The five year period in question included the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic period.
Please join us in advocating for this crucial reform by signing our Saving Grace petition today: www.bit.ly/saving-grace-dentistry.
Mental health suffered
The first staff member is the practice manager. She is a registered dental nurse but is responsible for running the practice. During COVID-19 she organised the protocols and liaised with staff and patients. There were new procedures to learn but she managed brilliantly.
In my opinion she deserved a medal. But instead she got in trouble with the GDC because, for the two year period that included COVID-19, she was down on the minimum number of verifiable CPD hours by one hour.
She tried to explain the circumstances and also asked if two half hour CPD sessions could be rounded up to an hour each which would solve the problem. The answer from the GDC administrator was ‘no’.
The case went all the way to a hearing but our staff member pulled out at the last minute on the day of the remote hearing because she couldn’t cope with the stress.
The hearing went ahead without her and the case was thrown out because, guess what? The two half hours should have been rounded up to an hour so she was vindicated but her mental health has suffered. The experience was awful and went on for months.
The second key member of staff, a senior dental nurse, was two hours down in the two year period in question. She couldn’t go back in time and make up the shortfall at the end of the five year cycle. She had done more than the required number of hours in total but this doesn’t count.
During the period in question she was working through COVID-19, educating an autistic teenage son at home and looking after elderly relatives. The GDC again showed no mercy and threatened to take the case to a hearing. Salvation came in the form of a fit test certificate from the builder who had come to fit us with level 3 PPE masks during the period of the shortfall. The outcome was good but the treatment dished out by the GDC was completely unwarranted and heavy handed.
Staff who have to continue working under these conditions are so stressed that they become at risk of mental health issues and are consequently potentially a danger to our patients. The GDC itself puts patients at risk because the staff are put into such a stressful and unforgiving process, and key members of staff are at risk of losing their much needed income.
The third member of our team who was affected by the CPD registration process is one of our most valued and experienced dental nurses. She had a difficult early life, which meant she never sat A-levels but has been studying after her full time working hours so that she could sit an access course which enables her to apply to study dentistry.
She inadvertently missed the deadline for submitting her dental nurse CPD by two hours because she was distracted with her studies. The GDC showed no compassion and she was removed from the register.
It took her three months to get re-registered during which time she was limited to non-clinical duties and less experienced members of staff had to step into her role. Again, this put the patients at risk because the more experienced staff member was not allowed to carry out her normal clinical duties.
The administrators who regulate our dental staff have no understanding of the problems they are causing for dental practices. The process needs to be made more supportive of our valuable staff. It feels as though the GDC don’t understand the pressures that we face and are unforgiving of any shortcomings.
The COVID-19 period in particular was exceptional – we couldn’t do the usual in-practice training that would have provided the necessary CPD hours. Private practices were particularly hard hit because we didn’t get the furlough that NHS practices had. At the height of the pandemic, it was private practices that provided valuable access to dental care.
I would like to see the system reformed so that there is a grace period for staff who miss the deadline. I would welcome more leniency for staff who narrowly fail to meet the minimum two year requirements but overall have more than the required CPD hours.
Please join us in advocating for this crucial reform by signing our petition today: www.bit.ly/saving-grace-dentistry.
Read more about Saving Grace articles here:
- Dental technicians call for ‘pragmatic’ approach to regulation
- Introducing Dentistry’s Saving Grace campaign.
Get involved! If you would like to write an article for the campaign, please email [email protected].
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