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Dental regulator pays damages after unlawful under-guise operation

Post date: 07/04/2021 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 07/04/2021

The General Dental Council (GDC) has paid an undisclosed sum of damages to a clinical dental technician after Dental Protection successfully secured an admission by the regulator to having acted ‘unlawfully in undertaking an under-guise operation without reasonable justification’,

Dental Protection defended the member, who had been the subject of an anonymous complaint to the GDC that he may be working without registration, and that his laboratory was in a bespoke setting in his home. The GDC instructed an under-guise operation creating a fictitious scenario with two private investigators posing as relatives of “Evelyn”, an elderly relative who needed dentures but was too ill to attend in person.

The Interim Orders Committee concluded that any evidence from the investigation was flawed and unfair, and the GDC Fitness to Practise Committee halted any further action on grounds of an abuse of process.

Dental Protection, instructing Lee Biddle of legal firm BLM, sought an order against the GDC to recover legal costs, which the GDC conceded in August last year.

Most recently, the GDC accepted a declaration by the court that it has acted unlawfully by undertaking an under-guise operation without reasonable justification. This is in breach of the clinical dental technician’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Data Protection Act 1998 and Data Protection Act 2018.

While the exact number of covert investigations undertaken by the GDC has not been established, a Freedom of Information request revealed that it spent a minimum of £15,416 on this in 2017 alone. 

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said:

“The GDC targeting its own registrants without a sufficiently justified cause is extremely concerning for dentists. The use of an entirely contrived scenario about a sick pensioner in very difficult circumstances was designed to trigger an emotional response and lure a registrant into acting outside of their scope. This is hardly an ordinary opportunity for wrongdoing, and it is unfair and invasive.

“Throughout this case, the GDC asserted that under-guise investigations are essential to carry out its statutory function. However, in an unprecedented step, it has now admitted acting unlawfully when using under-guise investigations in this case and has agreed paying damages to our member.

“This has been a harrowing time for our member, and we hope that no one else needs to suffers in the same way.

“We have very strong concerns about the use of undercover investigators. Dental professionals should be able to be confident that any investigation into them is based on their real-life practice and interactions with others, and not on concocted situations with operatives actively seeking to gather evidence that could be used against them”.

“I am pleased that we were able to go above and beyond in supporting our members, using our discretion to provide additional assistance and successfully securing financial damages”.

ENDS

For media enquiries contact: ione.gyamfi@medicalprotection.org (+44) 7525 680 165.

Notes to editors

Information provided to MPS by GDC under a Freedom of Information request is based on hearings that concluded in 2017.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support together with the right to request indemnity for complaints or claims arising from professional practice.   

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association. 

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