GDC Becoming a Two Man Band

GDC Becoming a Two Man Band

It is no secret that the GDC has problems with a high turnover of staff. Whistle-blowers have been poorly treated, and the Council’s rating on Glassdoor is hardly encouraging to would-be employees. Things may not be much better for the ‘Big Beasts’ of Wimpole Street, as yet another member of the Executive Team (ET) heads for the exit.

This is happening just as the GDC faces the major challenge of maintaining public protection when the existing checks on overseas registrants are removed.

The Executive Team are the most powerful officials in the GDC. As its figurehead the Chair, Lord Toby Harris is a more familiar figure to registrants. However Lord Toby is a 70 year old part timer with many other major interests and demands on his time. These include being chair of the National Preparedness Commission and vice chair of the Labour peers group. He is also co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on policing and security with former dentist Sir Paul Beresford. These and other roles alongside a long career in local government show a great commitment to public service, but also confirm that his involvement with day to day events at the GDC will be somewhat limited. It is the executive team who will steer the big decisions.

Not long ago there were six members of the ET, including Ian Brack and Lisa Marie Williams. Ian Brack was appointed Chief Executive, Registrar and Accounting officer in 2018. This followed a period of turmoil under his predecessor and it was hoped that he would help turn the GDC around. He departed at very short notice in November 2023. Notably there was minimal comment from the GDC about his departure, nor appreciation of his services. His LinkedIn profile suggests that he has not yet found another post. His role appears to have been passed to Gurvinder Soomal who has for some time been the member of the ET with responsibilities for registration.

Mr Brack is not the only departure. Lisa Marie Williams was appointed as the GDC’s Executive Director, Legal and Governance in December 2018, after joining the GDC in 2015 as the Principal Legal Adviser. At the end of January 2023 it was announced that she will leave at the end of March. Ms Williams will be joining Buckinghamshire Council to lead their Legal and Democratic services teams.

And then there were four.

This leaves recently appointed Theresa Thorp who appears to have been bought in to try and improve regulation and the GDC’s woeful Fitness to Practice record. She has to date maintained a very low profile. Similarly Samantha Bache - appointed to the ET in to November 2023 as Interim Chief Operating Officer, will not be familiar to many registrants. This leaves just two experienced persons on the team, Mr Soomal and Stefan Czerniawski, who joined the ET in late 2019. It is Mr Czerniawski who has the highest profile, speaking for the GDC at outside events as well as being the first to comment on behalf of the GDC on the changes to registration for overseas graduates. It was Mr Czerniawski who announced that the GDC would publish details of deaths during FTP, gave a deadline for this, and then later announced that they would not be doing so.

From six to four, of whom two are likely to carry disproportionate influence, the Executive Team is left weak, and with its considerable power in the hands of just two individuals.

The latest government announcement that there will be legislation to remove the present checks on overseas registrants, may reflect a frustration that the GDC could not manage the overseas registration exam process. Despite their frequent announcements that they were making improvements, including hiring more staff, progress remained slow. Bringing in overseas graduates was one of the few remaining planks of government dental strategy, and this must have been infuriating for a minister desperate to get some good news.

A consultation will soon open and then the GDC will be expected to oversee the new arrangements. In practical terms this will put the key decisions on who is considered safe to treat the public in the hands of two career bureaucrats. For those who do believe that past performance can be an indicator of future results, these are alarming times.

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