Hidden GDC Emails, more questions about Council’s conduct in the Williams case

Hidden GDC Emails, more questions about Council’s conduct in the Williams case

One dentist’s persistent pursuit of accountability from the GDC has led to a previously hidden tranche of emails and letters being released. These shed further light on the GDC’s repeated embarrassments at the hand of the judicial system following its inability to accept the various shortcomings in its handling of the Williams case.

As reported in GDPUK -in this story and subsequently here, this case revolved around the erasure of a young dentist on grounds of dishonesty in relation to top up fees. The newly revealed emails and letters relate to the period from June 2022 to May 5th 2023. In June 2022 in the High Court, Mr Justice Ritchie overturned the GDC decision to erase the dentist. Then, in May 2023 the Court of Appeal turned down the GDCs appeal against that decision.

There are two stories that emerge which should alarm registrants. The first is how the GDC delayed, obstructed and even withheld information over many months. The second is what the missing emails reveal about the GDC’s intent and motivation. This story looks at the first issue.

In May 2023 following the later Court decision, Leeds dentist, Dominic O’Hooley sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the GDC. It asked about communications between the GDC and other bodies between June 2022 and 2023 about any aspects of the Williams v GDC appeal. It specifically mentioned NHSEngland, NHSBSA, DHSC and HMG. This was a reasonable line of enquiry as the GDC had justified its appeal as a means of “seeking clarity” on NHS regulations and their application.

The GDC acknowledged the FOI request, and as is their practice confirmed, in accordance with the Act that the enquirer, “will receive a response to any FOI request within 20 working days.”

A subsequent email from the GDC confirmed that a reply would be provided by June 12th 2023. In the absence of any reply, Dr O’Hooley sent a reminder to the GDC on June 13th. This too received the familiar ‘reply within 20 working days’ acknowledgement from the GDC.

On June 11th with no reply, Dr O’Hooley asked the GDC to conduct an internal review, to provide reasons for the repeated failure to reply to his request. This too received the ‘20 working day’ acknowledgement from the GDC.

It was not until December 4th, some five months later that the GDC replied. This came in two parts. The first simply provided a link to a copy of the NHS Charges regulations. The second contained a five page bundle. Within this was a heavily redacted letter sent by the now departed GDC CEO Ian Brack, to a Department of Health and Social Care email address. Dated February 23rd 2023, the letter set out the background to the GDCs proposed appeal. It asked the DHSC to join the appeal as an intervener.*

A follow up letter from the GDC CEO was sent on March 8th 2023, asking the DHSC to let him know their positon regarding their willingness to act as an intervener.

In total the GDC had disclosed two letters sent to a single contact.

Dr O’Hooley immediately asked for a further internal review stating that: “I believe you have not sent all relevant documents/communications, as detailed in my request.”

The GDC responded to Dr O’Hooley on December 15th, their fastest response to date. They said that they had sent the information he was entitled to, and would not conduct an internal review.

Fast forward to May 15th 2024, one year after the initial FOI, and there was an update from the GDC. They wrote: “We have identified further information within the scope of your request.” The reason given was: “This was not identified at the time because we had thought that searches had been carried out by one of our team, however this had been missed and so those searches had not been carried out.” Readers may wonder how much weight a similar claim coming from a registrant at an FTP hearing would be given.

The further information bundle runs to 58 pages and numerous emails and letters, although it still appears that there were never any phone conversations about this issue. A significant number of the newly discovered items come from the same GDC Executive who recently wrote that, “Transparency is important to building trust.”

In a follow up article, GDPUK looks at some of the newly disclosed messages and examines possible reasons for the GDC’s reluctance to disclose them.

*Intervention (law) - Wikipedia

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