12 January 2010
Q. I am a dental hygienist and have recently moved to a new town. Whilst applying for jobs I recently attended an interview with a dentist who asked to see my General Dental Council (GDC) certificate of registration and some proof of indemnity. I showed the dentist my GDC certificate, but was unable to provide a current certificate of indemnity because I had let my subscription lapse a few years ago, when the cost increased and I was trying to save some money for a holiday. I then forgot about it and failed to renew the subscription. The dentist subsequently notified the GDC that I was working without indemnity and now I have been sent a letter from the GDC saying that I am to face an Interim Orders Committee. Please can you tell me what this means and what I should do?
The main function of the General Dental Council (GDC) is to protect patients and it is a requirement of being on the Dental Register that appropriate indemnity against clinical negligence is in place in order that patients are protected. The GDC also has the power to convene an Interim Orders Committee if it feels that a registrant's action is likely to put patients at risk.
It appears that you have been working without appropriate cover for several years, which the GDC would consider a very serious offence.
Although your membership has lapsed, Dental Protection is a mutual organisation which means that it has the discretion to offer you assistance if it considers there to be extenuating circumstances which contributed to this situation. However, this would need approval from the Board of Directors.
You can raise the matter at Board level by writing directly to the Chairman of the Board in order to ask if assistance will be granted in your case with the GDC. It should be stressed that because you were not in membership at the time, there is no guarantee what the outcome will be. This would mean the prospect of you needing to make your own representations to the Interim Orders Committee. You would be invited to make submissions at the hearing which can be a very stressful and onerous task. It would be similar to a situation where you represented yourself in a court of law without the benefit of any legal assistance at all.
The Interim Orders Committee has the power to decide that a registration should be suspended - which means that the registrant concerned is unable to work as a hygienist (or a dental nurse for that matter). Alternatively, the Committee may choose to impose conditions on your registration.
Whether you choose a mutual organisation or an insurance company, it is essential to ensure that your indemnity subscriptions are paid on time in order to prevent such an occurrence arising. Can you imagine trying to arrange travel insurance to make a claim for your luggage after it had been stolen? At least Dental Protection can use its discretion to consider any extenuating circumstances that might have been involved in this unfortunate situation.