Transparency and Delays - The GDC Way

Transparency and Delays - The GDC Way

“Transparency is important to building trust.”

This is hardly a controversial opinion, and was written by Stefan Czerniawski, GDC Executive Director, Strategy who is responsible amongst other roles, for communications and engagement. He wrote this sentence in a blog on the GDC website in late March 2024. It has taken the GDC no more than a month to show that these were empty words.

In a recent news item, quietly posted on its website, in barely 200 words the GDC has demonstrated its  cavalier approach to transparency, as well as communications with, and contempt for, its own registrants.

GDPUK readers will remember the Williams case where the GDC erased a dentist on the grounds of dishonesty only to have this reversed in the high court. The GDC sought to appeal this, and lost. The crux of the case was the GDCs failure to understand the NHS regulations where ‘top up’ payments had been agreed between the dentist and patients - the story can be found here.  Many other dentists had been erased in similar circumstances as well as those receiving less severe sanctions.

The regulators, regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) noted in its review of the GDC’s activities in late 2022/2023 published in late 2023, that the Council had conducted a review into cases where charges of dishonesty relating to top-up fees were proved and the registrant erased. According to the PSA, “The GDC plans to publish a statement on its website regarding the review and its findings and is also liaising with the NHS on this issue.”

By late March 2024 the GDC had not published any such statement. This was now some months after the report’s completion, if the PSA are to be believed. A Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request was put in to the GDC asking three simple questions:

  • When the review had been completed
  • The number of cases that were involved
  • When the statement regarding the review and its findings, had been published by the GDC

A couple of days before the deadline to answer the FOI the GDC slipped out their news item on their website. It was headlined, “Outcome of case review following ruling on interpretation of NHS regulations” In it the GDC wrote that: “we undertook to consider whether the judgment had implications for the outcomes of previous fitness to practise cases.” This in itself is disingenuous, since the GDC arbitrarily chose to limit their review to cases which had resulted in erasure. Any involving lesser sanctions such as suspension, were placed outside the GDC’s self-defined scope of their review.

The key paragraph of the GDC release stated that: “We have carried out a review of 124 cases involving ‘top-up fees’ since the Contract Regulations came into force. Having reviewed all the circumstances of the relevant cases and engaged the services of independent legal counsel, no further action was required, as it was established that the outcomes in these cases did not depend on the interpretation of the Contract Regulations which was at issue in the Williams case.”

And that was it. No further information, let alone a link to the actual report, was provided.

On X former MDDUS head, Stephen Henderson, commented:

One of the worst aspects of this story is that it is not an exception, indeed those who follow the GDC can usually predict how they will delay, deny, deflect and distract, when challenged.

There is no transparency from the GDC, and here at last the Executive Director may be on the brink of genuine insight, because without it there can be no trust.


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