Indemnifiers Raise Concerns: GDC Push Remote Hearings

Indemnifiers Raise Concerns: GDC Push Remote Hearings

The GDC is eager to move to online remote Fitness to Practice hearings.

This is being promoted as an initiative to improve convenience, with the added bonus of reduced costs. Used during the pandemic, when by necessity face to face hearings presented problems, the move is being presented as one that will modernise and simplify the administration of the FTP process. Dental indemnifiers beg to differ.

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has said that this would disadvantage certain dental professionals undergoing GDC investigation. John Makin, Head of the DDU said: “In many instances, a remote hearing is preferable for all parties but we believe it is wrong for it to be a default position. It should not be necessary for a dental professional wanting an in-person hearing, to first make a case for that, when they are already under the considerable pressure of responding to the allegations being made.”

John Makin expressed concerns about those with sensory impairments or who might have difficulty accessing the appropriate technology. In his opinion, “Making this change would also put the GDC at odds with the approach taken by other healthcare regulators and in criminal and civil cases.”

In what is a common theme he concluded: “We hope the GDC will reconsider these proposals. The consultation is open until 12 February and we encourage dental professionals to review the proposals and respond with their views on this important issue.”

For the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, Rachael Bell, interim head of dental at MDDUS, said: "Everyone has a right to a fair and public hearing and the GDC’s proposal to default to remote hearings could potentially compromise this fairness.” She pointed out some basic weaknesses in remote hearings: “In cases with conflicting factual accounts, registrants should have the right to see their accuser face-to-face without providing justification for such a request.” Not all respondents will be sitting in a well-equipped office at a large screen with reliable broadband. As Rachael Bell pointed out, “For many, a smartphone may be their only way to participate in remote hearings, which can severely limit registrants ability to engage fully in the process.”

Her conclusion was that: "The GDC’s effort to manage resources must not come at the cost of fairness, particularly for those with learning difficulties, sensory impairments, disabilities or other challenges."

For Dental Protection, Dental Director Dr Raj Rattan, expressed serious concerns. He said: “The consequences of a GDC investigation for the dental professional can be profound so it is only right that if they wish to appear in person then they should be afforded this opportunity without the need for an application. We believe they have the right to appear in person before those judging them irrespective of their circumstances or the nature of the allegations.”

His suggested approach would seem to be shared by the other indemnifiers: “Our view is that the default position should be that substantive hearings are in person save where it is agreed by the parties that they be remote or hybrid. While both parties may be content with fully remote hearings for the most part, this should not be interpreted by the GDC as an indicator for dental professionals to lose their right to have an in person or hybrid hearing if they wish this.”

There is a long history with such consultations that what the GDC wants, the GDC usually gets. The recent GDC climb down over advice to panels has shown that when there is enough pressure they may retreat. Brushing aside concerns from those responding to a consultation is far easier when there are only a few responses.

The consultation remains open to all until February 12th.

More about the proposal:  Consultation on format of hearings (

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