The GDC... Are They Really the Bad Guys?

Back in June I had the opportunity to visit the new General Dental Council's HQ in Birmingham to visit their dental fellow. Did this change my opinion of our infamous regulator...

Who are the GDC?

The General Dental Council is one of 9 Healthcare Regulators; as set out in the Health & Social Care Act 2012, all healthcare must be regulated. There are 110,000 registrants who the GDC regulates; dentists and dental care professionals. 

There are 4 roles of the regulator:
  1. Education of the profession i.e. setting and monitoring undergraduate/postgraduate curriculum
  2. Registration of health professionals
  3. Setting standards and CPD requirements 
  4. Fitness to Practice (FTP)

What is Shifting the Balance?

In 2016, more than 75% of the expenditure for the GDC was on FTP! As a result, the GDC has been working on 'Shifting the Balance' to address this. Now in 2019, this expenditure has reduced to around 50% as a result of investing in upstream prevention methods.

As part of Shifting the Balance, the GDC aims to:
  • Research into preparedness to practice, improve integration between dental schools and deaneries and promote better collaboration and communication
  • Improve the relationship the GDC has with undergraduates by becoming more involved with programs at universities
  • Evaluate CPD by quality rather than quantity; hence the recent change to enhanced CPD

The GDC continues to try reduce it's expenditure for example, recently moving their HQ up to Birmingham, but it still retains an office in Wimpole Street where FTP are held. 

What is FTP?

Fitness to Practice (FTP) is when a concern is raised about a GDC registrant and investigations are undertaken to see if they are safe to practice. 78% of cases are closed within 1 year.

You are less likely to get to FTP if you are:
  • Female
  • A DCP
  • Work outside of London
  • Are a young professional

Of 100 cases referred to the GDC:

  • 36% are closed at initial triage - within 24 hours
  • 24% are closed at assessment stage
  • 26% are closed at case evaluation
  • 14% are referred to practice committee hearing

Of the 14% referred to the hearing:

  • 15% of registrants are erased
  • 42% of registrants are suspended with review
  • 16% of registrants have conditions put on them
  • 7% of registrants are reprimanded
  • 13% of registrants fitness to practice is not impaired
  • 7% of facts are not factual

Hearings are public and are held at Wimpole street and other locations in London - often groups attend as part of study days of dental foundation training. Registrants are judged on whether FTP is currently impaired so if they show reflective practice and make changes following the incident, they are less likely to have an erasure. The GDC can also refer to NHS England if they have clinical concerns for them to investigate. 

So you can see in recent years there has been a shift in priorities for the GDC with a great emphasise on prevention and reducing unjustified escalation to FTP. There are plenty of challenges ahead in the future for the GDC, such as the fact that 23% of new GDC registrants are from the EU... what will happen after the dreaded 'B' word?!

What are your thoughts on the GDC and FTP? Let me know in the comments below!

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