"Preventing Harm" – The GDC Maintains Its 'Protective' Position

 "Preventing Harm" – The GDC Maintains Its ’Protective’ Position

The General Dental Council has released its Annual Report for 2021, with the Chief Executive Ian Brack and Chair Lord Toby Harris stating “Our statutory purpose remained unchanged: to protect the public.”

A statement by  Mr Brack and Lord Toby said “We made progress on important work towards achieving our long-term ambition of moving dental professional regulation increasingly toward preventing harm to patients and the public, rather than responding to the consequences of it.”

The statement conflicts widely with the GDC’s previous stance since 2019, on overseas dentists from outside the EU registering as dental therapists with no direct examination of their clinical restorative skills.

The GDC began registering overseas dentists as dental therapists in 2016. GDPUK  reported in October 2019 that the process was likely to have been driven by the long wait candidates had to sit the overseas dental examination and a recruitment drive by consultancy companies targeting dentists in South Asia.

GDPUK revealed earlier this year that in January 2022, of the 55% of candidates who failed Part 2 of the Overseas Registration Examination, 19 candidates were already registered with the GDC as either a dental therapist, dental hygienist, or held both titles.

Despite warnings from the British Association of Dental Therapists, the GDC consistently refused to act on concerns presented to it.

A GDC spokesperson told GDPUK in 2019 “Whilst we are able to seek changes to the Dentists Act 1984 by virtue of section 60, this process requires significant GDC and Parliamentary time and resource. The statements provided set out the robust processes in place to ensure individuals have the requisite level of knowledge, skill and experience prior to being able to join the Registers and, until there is evidence to the contrary, there are insufficient grounds to seek changes under section 60.”

That statement indicated that in 2019, the GDC wasn’t intending to change its registration procedures unless, presumably, evidence was presented to it that patients were at risk of harm.

In 2019, GDPUK reported that the  GDC began registering overseas dentists as dental therapists and/or dental hygienists with no change to legislation being sought.

In May 2022, GDPUK reported that after a three-year-long battle by the BADT, the GDC had finally published its commitment to closing the route by which overseas-qualified dentists are  registering as dental care professionals.

Responding to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on  ‘Changes to the General Dental Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s international registration legislation,’ the GDC said on its website “The proposals will close the route for overseas-qualified dentists to register as dental care professionals. This will reflect the spirit of the legislation and mirror current arrangements for UK-qualified dentists.” 

But in its introduction to the dental regulator’s consultation response to the consultation, the GDC still maintained its stance that assessment processes are ‘robust.’

The GDC said “For dental care professionals, we conduct an assessment of qualifications and experience known as the Overseas Dental Care Professional Assessment Process. One of the consequences of the backlog in the ORE, is that some internationally qualified dentists who have not yet achieved registration have sought to register as dental care professionals while they wait to take the ORE.”

“We are confident in the robustness of that process, and we have not seen fitness to practise concerns increasing since these registration applications started to arise in 2016.”

Again, that statement conflicts with the sentiment expressed in Lord Toby and Mr Brack’s recent Annual Report statement that the GDC’s ambition was on “Moving dental professional regulation increasingly toward preventing harm to patients and the public, rather than responding to the consequences of it.”

The GDC’s Annual Report and Accounts 2021 can be accessed here.

Paul Isaacs
Same old GDC, same old levels of candour

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