The Health Select Committee will be holding an accountability meeting with the GDC on the 3rd of March. It’s about time too, as they haven’t been asked to account at all to anyone but the judiciary recently (and they lost). It will be interesting to see if they try to spin that meeting in the same way as they did in the press release just after the decision in the high court in December.
It looks like the GDC have finally got to face the only people who they are answerable to. I wonder if they are going to try to wiggle out of the unavoidable truths?
I presume everyone reading this is going to submit his or her evidence to the HSC through this link before the deadline of 19th February.
Are you scared?
Well actually, that is probably extremely close to the truth. I am personally quite worried these days that a GDC letter will arrive on my doorstep for some reason or another (and that is not because I know I have something to fear – my inherent belief structure tries to ensure I do the right thing by patients at all times, but I have also been openly critical of the GDC, which I’m sure they do not like – and they get to decide what is deemed as professional or not). All someone these days has to say (even in jest) is “I’ll report you to the GDC for…” or ‘I bet the GDC have their eyes on you” and it feels like a letter from Wimpole Street is already winging its way to you starting the process of investigation and a potential loss of livelihood.
The lack of proportionality that has been written about previously means that a situation like this could be an increasing possibility for all of us. It’s why the ARF had to go up according to the GDC for goodness sake. To put a few figures on this, if you reckon on 40,000 dental registrants having about a 40 year career, and the current data from the GDC is that there were 1700 complaints in the first 6 months of 2014, then the maths shows that each registrant will have 3.4 complaints in a career. (3400 complaints x40 /40,000). Some of these complaints are against DCP’s, ok, and not all of them will go to the full Fitness to Practice hearing, (but 40% of them currently do) but I’m sure you get the overall idea. Is it right that if this way of dealing with complaints continues, on average, every single dentist will have to face this career-wrenching possibility more than once? This alone tells the general reader that the regulator is going the wrong way about it.
Since the GDC are the initial arbiters of our standards and decide an investigation will run to see if there are any grounds to an allegation, and there is currently the interminable wait for a hearing, then I don’t honestly think I could mentally deal with that kind of pressure for that long with the fear of loosing all that I have put into patient care, this profession, and that of my livelihood and ability to provide for my family. Even if an investigation goes all the way to a hearing, is there any guarantee that there will be an understanding of the pressure we are now practicing daily under from the committee, especially when it is made up of so many lay persons? Tony Jacobs wrote an excellent blog on this subject.
Some of you will have no doubt read the very eloquent and erudite blog written by Colin Campbell, a very well thought of colleague in my locality and indeed nationally. Colin is one of the most ethical and conscientious practitioners I have ever met. If you haven’t read it then it is a ‘must read’, because Colin is a person who wears his heart on his sleeve and this series of blogs are likely to be a wholly authentic and personal view of how HE felt during the process he went through.
There are many (most of us?) out there that fear the GDC, and not for the correct reasons. We need to respect our regulator, and know that whilst it absolutely MUST act to protect the public, it is not effective ‘right touch’ regulation to do this by ruling the profession with that kind of fear. Using a methodology akin to continuing the beatings until the morale improves is not how it works these days.
Mistakes happen; I was once told right at the beginning of my dental career by an older practitioner the reason he was more experienced than me is because he had made more mistakes than me. Nobody is ever going to excuse the type of mistakes that are so dangerous they have to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. But if we are to be perpetually living in the fear that one minor transgression will bring the full weight of our regulator down on our backs then that is wrong.
There are also bad people in our profession; nobody is denying that, and I will certainly make no excuses for them. But the climate of fear that pervades the profession at the moment is no way to prevent mistakes from happening, and it certainly wont do ANYTHING to stop that minority who are out to damage people because they probably don’t have the emotional or ethical values to allow them to feel the fear those of us that practice ethically and responsibly (and fearfully) do.
So at the moment I remain scared. But I will still be submitting evidence to the Select Committee because I cannot, and will not be made to feel this way for the rest of my practicing career. We care for patients every day, but we also have to care about our future health for the sake of our families. After all, we too are human, just like the public the GDC must protect.
We have to stand up to the GDC and now show them the true and high calibre of the vast majority of Dental Professionals.