2 November 2010
Q. It has come to light that a dental nurse colleague of mine has failed to renew her registration with the GDC, but is still working clinically. How should this situation be managed by the practice principal? In the meantime is my registration compromised if she continues to assist me in the surgery?
The Dentist Act 1984 (as amended) is quite clear in this situation. Clinical members of the dental team must either be on the GDC register or engaged in a course of training that leads to registration. The only exception to this rule would be where a dental nurse was waiting to start a training course for which s/he he has registered. Clearly in the situation outlined in the question above the dental nurse meets neither of those criteria and s/he would then be vulnerable to an allegation of the illegal practise of dentistry.
From the practice’s point of view they should either suspend the dental nurse, or move him or her to other non clinical duties (reception, administration, etc) until such time as they have been able to contact the GDC and their name once again appears on the DCP register. This usually takes a few days from the receipt of the reapplication - provided there are no other significant circumstances.
From the hygienist’s point of view, if the dental nurse normally worked alongside them, the hygienist should point out the problem to the practice principal and ask him or her to take immediate action. It is also worth noting that it would be against the GDC guidance (paragraph 3.7 of Principles of Dental Team Working) for any clinician to work without a dental nurse (preferably registered) present. It would then be quite wrong for the practice to leave the hygienist without a dental nurse during the period that elapses whilst the registration is being restored. Similarly allowing the dental nurse to continue working when the hygienist knows that the nurse had not re-registered would also leave the hygienist and practice open to criticism at the GDC.
In reality both the dental nurse concerned and the practice should never have allowed the situation to occur in the first place. The GDC does offer all registrants the facility of paying their registration fee by Direct Debit. Provided then there are sufficient funds in the registrant’s bank account, continued registration should not be an issue.
The practice can protect their own interest in such a situation by keeping a list of those clinicians within the practice that are registered with the GDC and asking them for either a copy of their registration certificate or proof that the current registration fee has been paid. It is also advisable for the practice to keep a copy of every registrant’s current certificate of professional indemnity. The file of both documents can then be reviewed on a yearly basis.