GDC Reforms Are ‘Too Slow’ - Could Be More Radical

GDC Reforms Are ‘Too Slow’ - Could Be More Radical

The draft White Paper outlining Health and Social Care reforms would make the abolition of the General Dental Council much easier to carry out.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock introduced new proposals for health service reform in the Commons.

The White Paper, says the UK model of professional regulation for healthcare professionals has become ‘increasingly rigid’ and ‘complex.’  It said it “Needs to change to better protect patients, support the provision of health services, and help the workforce better meet current and future challenges.”

‘The proposed powers will make it easier to ensure that professions protected in law are the right ones and that the level of regulatory oversight is proportionate to the risks to the public, now and in the future.’

The proposed new legislation aims to ensure that the processes that professionals have to go through to join and stay on a register are ‘proportionate’ to assure public safety and aren’t ‘overly bureaucratic.

The new health reform proposals would enable the Secretary of State for Health and Social care to make reforms in the regulatory ‘landscape’ through secondary legislation – a simpler and quicker process than enacting an Act of Parliament.

The paper says that reforms to the Secretary of State’s powers would  ensure the professional regulation system delivers public protection in a ‘modern and cost-effective manner.’

The White paper referred to there being ‘inevitable duplication’ in  having nine regulatory bodies and said a reduction in regulators would deliver public protection in a more consistent way as well as delivering financial and efficiency savings.

The proposals would enable the abolition of a regulator if its functions had been merged or absorbed by another regulatory body, which will become allowable under the new legislation.

But Dental Protection says that reforms of the GDC are “Too slow and going in the wrong direction.”

Responding to the leaked White Paper, called on the Government to ‘get on’ with reforming the General Dental Council’s Fitness to Practise processes, and shelve plans that could see dental professionals under some form of ‘super regulator’.

In a statement, Dental Protection said: “In recent years the Government has consulted on reducing the nine health professional regulators down to three or four, a move which many expected would lead to the abolition of the GDC in its current form and dental professionals being regulated alongside many other health professions by the same body.”

It went on “Dental Protection has urged the Government to focus on introducing reforms that would improve how dental professionals are regulated, rather than an amalgamation exercise which could result in a lack of expertise, familiarity and understanding of the distinct professions, in those responsible for the regulation.

Dental Director, Raj Rattan, said: “The GDC continues to be governed by the 1984 Dentists Act which, despite several amendments over the years, is outdated. The Act requires the GDC to conduct some of its operations in ways that are outmoded and not always in the best interest of patients or professionals.

“Dental Protection has long argued for reforms to the Act to enable the regulator to streamline its processes to improve efficiency, reduce the number of investigations into less serious allegations, and to require the GDC to conclude investigations in a timely manner.

“There is now a real opportunity to improve the GDC’s Fitness to Practise function and ensure the regulator follows a fair process in which patients, dentists and the governments of the UK can have confidence.

“The creation of a ‘super regulator’ or a similar large-scale amalgamation could result in an organisation that does not have expertise and understanding of the distinct professions. There is a strong case for the GDC to remain the regulator for dentists and dental care professionals. All registrants carry responsibility for the care and treatment of patients within a clinical setting and, consequently, require a regulator with experience, expertise and a contextual understanding of everyday dental practice.”

Commenting on the White Paper’s proposals, Head of the Dental Defence Union John Makin said: “We are studying the detail of the Health and Care bill closely, particularly its proposals on healthcare professional regulation. We have long called for the GDC to be given the powers it needs to amend its fitness to practise procedures to enable them to operate in a more efficient way. We hope that the proposals for reforming healthcare regulation will mean that the GDC is able to be a more agile and flexible regulator, delivering fairer and quicker outcomes for registrants.

Mr Makin told GDPUK “Being investigated by the GDC is stressful for dental professionals and while the regulator has already made some positive changes to its procedures, we know that the GDC needs legislative changes to achieve ambitious reforms.”

Responding to the Department of Health and Social Care’s White Paper, Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all, Ian Brack, Chief Executive and Registrar of the General Dental Council, said:

“We very much welcome the Government’s renewed commitment to regulatory reform, something for which we have been making the case for some time. The General Dental Council continues to operate within the limits of outdated and restrictive legislation which, in many instances, prevents a flexible, efficient and proportionate approach to regulation. While we have made improvements within the current framework, further progress without legislative change will be limited and so we look forward to continued collaboration with the Department towards the shared aim of achieving as rapid a solution as possible.

“We also note the proposed creation of new powers for the Secretary of State to remove professions from regulation and abolish individual regulators. We understand that the government does not have any specific plans to use such a new power, which in any case is dependent on Parliament approving the necessary legislative change. In the meantime, our primary focus as ever remains on maintaining public protection and confidence in dental services.”

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