The GDC believes that the current model of dental professional regulation has become unsustainable. It can be cumbersome, inefficient and, crucially, does not do enough to put patient safety at its heart.
The GDC has a strategic objective to improve its performance. We have invested heavily in this in recent years. It has required significant change to the way we function and in particular, we are working hard to improve how workload and the associated costs are managed.
However, this will take us only so far. Continuing in this manner, our business model will have a severely limited shelf life unless we can make significant change.
The GDC is open to this change and wants to work with patients, the public and the profession to put change into action.
The GDC currently faces a number of challenges. We have limited control over the number or complexity of the main drivers of our cost, our fitness to practise caseload.
Our main mechanism for dealing with things that go wrong – fitness to practise investigations and prosecutions – are not the best tools for dealing with the wide range of issues relating to performance and conduct that people raise with us.
In fact, many of the issues raised with us could be better resolved by other organisations. But there are limited processes in place to reroute these matters to a more appropriate body.
Part of the solution will be clearer information for patients and the public about where their complaint might be best dealt with including in the practice wherever possible.
The GDC recognises the need to improve the support for professionals to ensure harm is prevented rather than focusing on taking action after harm has occurred. The GDC is exploring ways to achieve this.
Moving upstream: Placing greater emphasis on supporting and empowering the profession to focus on prevention. This means the GDC identifying areas throughout the career pathway of dental professionals, to promote and support them in the understanding of the GDC’s statutory powers; through education, professional standards, registration and continuing professional development.
First tier complaints: The GDC acknowledges that, even with increased focus on prevention through upstream activity, sometimes things can still go wrong and result in a complaint being made by a patient. Shifting the balance acknowledges this inevitability and proposes different ways of working with the profession in how to deal with it, to make outcomes satisfactory to patients and more beneficial to the profession.
Working with partners: We made a commitment in our corporate strategy to work better with our partners to improve the regulation of dentistry in the UK and we have come some way in achieving this. However, there is more to do, and we need to develop our relationships with a whole range of organisations, including the systems regulators and the NHS in each of the four nations, professional associations, indemnity providers and employers.
Refocusing Fitness to Practise: The GDC’s fitness to practise powers are an important part of our role in protecting patients and maintaining public confidence in dental services. However, we would like to rethink how these enforcement powers are used. There is no doubt that sometimes it is unavoidable and necessary for cases to go through the fitness to practise process so that serious risk to patient safety within the profession is managed and sanctioned appropriately. Further avenues for cases which do not amount to an impairment to practise are being explored.