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Surviving dental school: What are fitness to practise panels?

Post date: 29/01/2020 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 29/01/2020

Hopefully it will never happen to you, but it’s good to know what happens if you ever need to appear before a fitness to practise panel.

What is a fitness to practise panel?

A fitness to practise panel is a special type of disciplinary panel. It’s for students on courses that lead to qualifications to work in regulated professions, such as dentistry, medicine and nursing.

What to expect

It is your dental school, and not the GDC, who is responsible for determining the fitness to practise of individual students. However, the GDC advises that students’ behaviour should be measured against the principles set out in their guidance for students.

Dental schools can issue formal procedures if they believe a student’s behaviour falls below these levels. Some of the questions a fitness to practise panel may consider include:

  • Has the student’s behaviour harmed patients or put them at risk?
  • Was there deliberate or reckless disregard of professional or clinical responsibilities towards patients or colleagues?
  • Is the student’s health or impairment compromising patient safety?
  • Has the student abused a patient’s trust, or violated a patient’s autonomy, or other fundamental rights?
  • Has the student behaved dishonestly, fraudulently, or in any way designed to mislead or harm others?

What will happen next?

After considering your case, there are a number of possible outcomes. The panel could decide to give no warning or sanction, leaving you free to continue your studies.

Alternatively, the panel issues a warning if it decides there is evidence of misconduct, but your fitness to practise is not impaired and does not require any further sanctions.

The panel decides your fitness to practise is judged to be impaired. In this case, there are several sanctions, varying in severity. These are:

  • conditions or undertakings, eg restrictions on clinical practice, agreed dental supervision or remedial teaching
  • suspension from your dental course
  • expulsion from your dental course.

If you are issued with a sanction, you will have to declare this when you come to apply for your registration with the GDC. The GDC stresses that the purpose of any sanctions or warnings is to protect patients and the public, rather than to punish the student. It also advises dental schools on what should be in place to support students through the process, such as clear timescales, representation and the right to appeal.

We can help you

If you are ever called before a student fitness to practise panel, it is important you contact us here at Dental Protection as soon as you can.

We’ll be able to give you expert advice and support throughout. As fellow dentists, we are approachable and realistic and give you guidance specific to you and your circumstances. It’s worth noting, however, that we assist with problems relating to the practice of dentistry, not problems that relate entirely to personal conduct.

To talk to us about disciplinary procedures or issues you might be facing, call our support and advice line on 0800 952 0442.

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