Dental Director Kevin Lewis addresses the impact of General Dental Council (GDC) investigations and points to the Open Standards Initiative as a means of guidance.
Positive steps have been made since writing to you last month about the concerns that Dental Protection has voiced about the stressful impact that a General Dental Council (GDC) investigation can have on dental practitioners.
It is gratifying to see that others have recognised the importance of ensuring that appropriate standards are applied at the initial assessment of the large number of cases that are currently brought to the attention of the GDC.
There are some early signs that the GDC itself has taken note of the almost universal criticism of its Fitness to Practise (FtP) procedures, and Dental Protection welcomes the GDC’s willingness to listen to our representations and suggestions and at last to implement some of the essential changes that we have been suggesting for so long.
Clarity of understanding surrounding the appropriate standards and their correct interpretation and application needs to be established and embedded before any investigation is started, in order to achieve consistently fair and proportional regulation for the profession.
Dental Protection has been vocal and proactive in its campaign to restore some proper understanding of the standards that should be expected of UK dentists (and other registrants). This would put an end to the ill-founded upward spiral that has been allowed to fuel a climate of fear and threat within the UK dental profession. You may have seen my own article on this subject published in the BDJ last month. We therefore warmly welcomed the statement issued in April 2015 by the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) [FGDP (UK)] echoing many of the same themes, not least voicing concerns at the way FGDP (UK) standards were being interpreted (and sometimes misrepresented) within the GDC’s Fitness to Practise procedures. We were also delighted to learn of the Open Standards Initiative announced by [FGDP (UK)] at the recent BDA Conference in Manchester.
The Initiative offers all dental professionals access to the standards and guidance documents produced by FGDP (UK), whether they are members of the Faculty or not.
As part of a programme designed to ensure the documents reach the widest possible audience, the Open Standards Initiative means every dental professional will be able to view the full text of all FGDP (UK) standards and guidance documents online.
Amongst the documents that are being made available will be:
- Clinical Examination and Record Keeping
- Selection Criteria for Dental Radiography
- Antimicrobial Prescribing for General Dental Practitioners
You can access the resource at www.fgdp.org.uk
Non-members will in time be required to register but at present will be able to log on using openstandards as both the user name and password.
To access the documents Faculty members will simply need to log onto the website in the usual way.
FGDP (UK) will also be launching e-book versions of its standards, to be followed later in the year by a mobile app.
A better understanding of the evidence base available to dentists can help every member of the dental team to make informed clinical judgements. As a responsible profession, we all seek to improve the quality of care we provide, and aspirational ‘best practice’ standards such as those responsibly provided by FGDP (UK) can certainly help us in this quest. But misrepresenting such aspirational standards as being the same as a minimum acceptable ‘threshold’ standard is inappropriate and ultimately unhelpful if it results in unnecessary and invalid criticism and challenge which adversely affects the health and well being of dental professionals. Far from helping to protect patients, these large volumes of inappropriate challenges can undermine and compromise patient safety and the quality of care provided to them.
I have been greatly encouraged by the feedback that we have received on the work we have been doing to restore some sanity to the dental professional environment in the interests of all of our members. It is particularly encouraging when this feedback comes from people who are in a position to influence events within the FtP procedures and who have themselves been exasperated by the lack of understanding, fairness and proportionality that has blighted FtP for so long.
There are genuine grounds for optimism and a belief that a corner may have been turned. You can be assured that we will continue to do all we can to continue this campaign and ensure that any changes for the better become permanently embedded.