The GDC needs to drastically improve its fitness to practise procedures after a survey by Dental Protection found that 94% of respondents had suffered stress and anxiety while being investigated – while we also raised concerns with the Health Select Committee that procedures are slow, disproportionate and, in some cases, unnecessary.
A third of respondents (33%) also revealed that they had considered leaving the profession because of their experiences at the hands of the GDC.
Of the 140 members who responded to the survey:
- 76% believed the investigation impacted on their personal life
- 71% felt it affected their health and wellbeing.
In March, Dental Protection prepared evidence of our wider concerns about the GDC for the Health Select Committee’s accountability hearing. GDC Chief Executive Evlynne Gilvarry and Chair Bill Moyes were asked to address these and other questions on a number of areas including regulation, the introduction of case examiners, the GDC’s record as a regulator and the performance and independence of the investigating committee.
Chief among our concerns were:
- Greater accountability among the profession
The GDC has an important role to play in encouraging the profession to be accountable, rather than simply focusing on holding it to account. We gave an example of a recent advertising campaign where the GDC had failed to encourage patients to use in-house complaints procedures; instead, patients send their concerns straight through to the GDC. We reminded the GDC that they have their own requirement that every registrant makes such an in-house service available to their patients.
- Targeted regulation
Based on our own extensive interactions with the GDC, we felt that too many dentists are being investigated, due to the correct statutory tests not being applied by those handling complaints at the GDC. In addition, there are too many IOC (Interim Orders Committee) hearings involving matters with little or no evidence of any kind of potential risk to public safety. This again suggests that an incorrect test is being applied to IOC referrals.
We highlighted that the GDC’s own data on waiting times from September 2014 showed that 64% of the 299 cases waiting for a hearing had been waiting longer than the target wait of 15 months. Our previous point of more targeted regulation – with proper assessment and handling of cases – could improve efficiencies. A delay of more than 15 months is of as much concern to patients as it is to dentists, as dentists are hardly likely to be working at optimal levels of performance when they are distracted all day, every day by their anxiety over an on-going GDC investigation
Kevin Lewis, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “The GDC’s investigations are often slow and disproportionate. It is our belief that those handling complaints for the GDC are not always applying correct statutory tests, which means that too many dentists are being investigated, a point the Committee raised directly with the GDC. We remain unconvinced that the statutory tests are being properly applied at the early stages of proceedings, and about the large number of dentists unnecessarily being referred to the Interim Orders Committee.
“Having heard what the GDC said about the process/system changes proposed in the now delayed Section 60 Order, we were not reassured about the likely true independence of case examiners.
“While it is appropriate that the GDC investigates and acts upon unacceptable conduct, they must encourage the profession to be accountable and deal with concerns inside the practice first, rather than simply holding them to account. Good regulation is not necessarily more regulation, nor is the perception of greater levels of regulatory activity an inherently desirable goal.”