Work underway to report cause of death during active FtP cases, says GDC

The GDC has provided an update to address recent concerns about the level of detail that is put into the public domain when the Interim Orders Committee (IOC) considers serious concerns.

Last year, the GDC was ordered to take action to prevent future deaths in the profession following the death of a dentist by suicide.

According to the GDC, it recognises that fitness to practise (FtP) processes are a stressful and difficult process. It says it has ‘taken various steps to minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety, and ensure that the small number of dental professionals involved in an investigation are supported and that their mental health and wellbeing is a priority’.    

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It says: ‘The aim of the review is to ensure the correct balance of the public interest in open justice and safety, against the interests of the dental professional, particularly when assessing untested allegations.

‘The role of the IOC is to assess immediate and serious risks to public safety or confidence and to take action when necessary. It does not have a role in making findings of fact.’

Now, the GDC is working to build a framework to report the causes of death of dental professionals where there is an active FtP case, guided by an evidence review and engagement with experts including the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group.

The regulator explains the work underway to bring together a report that covers the period 2019 to 2022, to be published in 2024.   

Serious incident

Stefan Czerniawski, executive director of strategy, said: ‘We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of a dentist whilst they were under investigation.

‘We are committed to reflecting and learning lessons where we can and are developing a process to undertake a serious incident review when we become aware that someone has died while subject to a fitness to practise investigation.

‘We want to build and maintain trust between us and the dental professionals we regulate. Minimising stress experienced in the fitness to practise process is one way to do that and we have a number of improvements underway.

‘Reporting the causes of death of registrants will also improve transparency. However, balancing transparency with the public interest, our responsibilities as a regulator and the impact on dental professionals requires consideration of different perspectives and views in order to ensure constructive discussion about what are often difficult and sensitive issues.’

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