Indemnifier Welcomes Further Changes To Fitness to Practise

Indemnifier Welcomes Further Changes To Fitness to Practise

For the second time this summer, GDPUK can report on some signs of positive change at the GDC. One of the main indemnifiers has welcomed a pilot recently launched by the GDC which aims to identify ‘simple’ cases with a view to reducing some of the delays that have beset Fitness to Practise (FTP).   

For many years the GDC has said that it was unable to improve FTP without new legislation.

When the GDC recently announced that it was adopting a new strategy of trying to make improvements within the current legislation, hopes were tempered by experience. Now Dental Protection has welcomed a new Fitness to Practise pilot launched by the GDC which aims to conclude simple cases more quickly.

The pilot will run for six months and deal solely with single patient clinical complaints where there are no previous fitness to practise concerns. According to the GDC, these currently make up 40% of all matters referred to the assessment stage and take more than 30 weeks on average to resolve.

Dr George Wright, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “It is encouraging that the GDC has taken this step to trial more informed decision making early in the process in respect of simple cases, with a view to avoiding delays. This is a welcome move, and we hope it results in resolving this cohort of cases more quickly.”

Dental Protection hopes that this pilot will demonstrate that there is potential for the GDC to improve and speed up the process for all cases. Looking ahead, Dr Wright said:  “Action by the government to amend the GDC’s legislation could give the regulator discretion not to take forward investigations where allegations clearly do not require action, and therefore dedicate more time to the most serious allegations. In the absence of this, we have been calling on the GDC to make more progress in tackling the delay in case handling itself.”

While the pilot is very welcome, there are hopes that it will be just the first in a series of improvements. Dr Wright believes that even without new legislation that there is more that the GDC can do. “We also hope the pilot demonstrates the potential for the GDC to do more to bring about speedier, more informed and robust decision making across all cases.

“The bigger concern for the dental professionals we represent at Dental Protection is the lack of proportionality and timeliness in the handling of cases that are not closed at assessment. We believe the consistent use of more experienced caseworkers in particularly complex cases would result in better and faster decision making, as well as fewer adjournments by Case Examiners and challenges to the decisions made.

“A key factor that could substantially improve proportionality would be for the GDC to reconsider its policy of referring matters to Case Examiners where it is clear from their own clinical adviser that misconduct cannot be established. We will continue to raise these concerns with the GDC.”

This welcome development comes against a background where the GDC’s management of the FTP process has been heavily criticised for many years. The GDC’s own regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), has found the there was a failure to meet the required standards for FTP, at every assessment that it has made of the dental regulator. And for just as long the GDC has offered the PSA action plans, and blamed its inability to resolve the well documented failings on outdated legislation.

Patients and dental professionals will both benefit if this pilot is successful and marks the start of a serious programme by the GDC to improve its management of FTP.

Justice by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Julia Furley
The GDC don't need new legislation to improve their FTP processes, they need a fundamental review of the way their legal team approaches what has effectively become the "prosecution" of dentists. There is currently very little evidence of moderate oversight.

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