GDC Pursued Top Up Case Despite No Support From NHS

GDC Pursued Top Up Case Despite No Support From NHS

Newly disclosed emails have revealed the GDCs determination to defend wrongful dishonesty findings and erasures in Fitness to Practice cases, at all costs. They demonstrate that it continued its ill-fated attempt to appeal a High Court decision, despite rejection of their repeated requests for backing from a number of other bodies.

As recently reported in GDPUK  these emails have had to be dragged out of the GDC, taking a year, rather than the 20 days set down by the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain. Not only was the very existence of these documents denied, but when asked to review the decision, and to check that they had provided the correct information, the GDC initially refused.

The background is that these related to the GDC’s unwillingness to accept a High Court decision of June 2022 that overturned a previous Fitness to Practice (FTP) decision to erase a young dentist.

That December the GDC announced that they would seek to appeal that decision. At the time they claimed this was in everyone’s best interests and they were “seeking clarity.” Judgement was handed down in May of 2023. The GDC lost.

The new emails suggest that even though possibly cooler and wiser heads in other organisations could see this coming and chose not to participate in the GDC’s ill fated action, Council executives were determined to press on.

The vast majority of the newly discovered documents are emails, and principal GDC players include Stefan Czerniawski, a senior Executive Team member with responsibility for strategy, and Osama Ammar, Head of Policy and Research Programme. There are also various NHS England officials whose names have been redacted.

It is possibly a coincidence that the first two documents released by the GDC were from Ian Brack the now departed CEO. Many of the more elusive second batch are from or CC’d to Stefan Czerniawski of “Transparency is important to building trust” fame.

Starting with a BDJ letter where three dentists had enquired when the NHS Business Service Authority might update its guidance relating to top ups, the 56 pages of emails begin with one that refers to another, so heavily redacted that it now reads, “Hi both-were you happy with the line below for (redacted space for single name)  He’s chased again.” This is followed by a substantial paragraph that is entirely redacted, and that completes the document.

Many of the emails have GDC officials working to get both NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care involved. There are also emails in which the BDA appear to be chasing the GDC, NHSE and DHSC. In one email the BDA express concerns about activity on Facebook regarding the case and its implications for top ups.

In September 2022, Stefan Czerniawski closes an email on the issue with, “I realise I must sound a little opaque-but I am sure you will appreciate that I am quite constrained about what I can say until the legal issues have been resolved.”

By November 2022 Osama Ammar is updating a group of nhs.net and DHSC contacts that hopes that “the expected clarity over the effects of the high court appeal could be provided through an administrative process” have not been fulfilled. As a result the GDC will seek a full hearing and the GDC “expect that your organisation would want to participate as an intervener in this matter.”

Initially an NHS Primary Care Services contact replies that they are happy to intervene, but need more information to discuss with their senior. By the end of the month there is talk of a meeting to progress matters amongst some of the parties. The Office of the Chief Dental Officer decline to get involved by the end of November 2022.

In December 2022 Alina Grossman, GDC Head of Public Policy sends out a further email reminding nine NHS and DHSC contacts that it is not too late for their organisations to participate in the GDC action.

In January 2023 an NHS England contact emails Alina Grossman regarding the request to be an intervener in the case. They say that they have asked for documents from the GDC to help them reach a decision but have not received them. They offer to read and delete them if that will “reassure” the GDC.

In April 2023 Alina Grossman emails assorted NHS contacts writing that there were no organisations that had opted to be interveners. In an unusual display of foresight by the GDC they add: “should the outcome not be in our favour, it would be helpful to understand whether the DHSC and NHS organisations are developing contingency pans for the scenario.”

On May 3rd 2023 Stefan Czerniawski is seeking a conversation with an NHS England contact for the afternoon of the Judgement, May 5th.

Given the major redactions and likelihood that there are still missing items, for example there are no records of any actual meetings or even any phone calls, we still do not have the full picture of what happened at the GDC. However it is clear that the GDC did not want to go into this appeal alone. Equally, despite the many requests from the GDC, not a single NHS organisation or part of the DHSC was willing to join the action.

An organisation that understood the meaning of the word insight might have paused and reflected that when NHS England repeatedly refused to back their legal action, that there might be a good reason.

This should have made the GDC stop and think. It may be that since they have been impervious to the normal rules and requirements of behaviour, and as a bonus have unlimited funding courtesy of registrants, that the DHSC and NHS organisations were happy for the GDC to act as dispensable shock troops, in what they recognised was a risky project. 

Blog analysing this disclosure of emails by GDC, by Stephen Henderson, can be found here.

GDPUK Opinion:

GDC promises transparency, this answer to an FOI request took one year to emerge. The UK dental profession has seen this pattern so many times.

Registrants also deserve to hear from their regulator that they promise to not waste registrant’s monies to fund the costs of Quixotic cases, especially in areas that remind us GDC is the regulator of dentistry, not the defender of the GDC’s perceived version of NHS dental regulations.

Not just promise, but publish and prove to registrants they have shown insight for their expensive legal failings.

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