How Did GDC Forget Their £195,000 Research Project?

How Did GDC Forget Their £195,000 Research Project?

We have all found unexpected items stuck at the back of a sofa. A banknote for the lucky and a long forgotten snack for the less fortunate. It takes the GDC to find nearly £200,000 worth of ‘research’ which they had commissioned and then apparently forgotten about.

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that the GDC spent £195,750.90 (inc VAT)  on a project that they appear to have side-lined for four months before even mentioning. In an unusually frank response to an FOI request, the GDC have said that they first made this document public on April 23rd 2024 and also disclosed its cost.

’Unlocking the potential of GDC Fitness to Practise data’ (final report) made its belated appearance via a small news item on the GDC website. This document, commissioned by the GDC, had been delivered to them back in December 2023. In the style of previous GDC News items, there is a somewhat sanitised summary of the source document.

What did the GDC get for their our money?

In terms of volume, 104 pages. This includes a three page glossary and 145 references, as well as a selection of charts.

In terms of personnel, the GDC got a team of eight from the University of Plymouth Faculty of Health, the GDC’s preferred provider on this occasion. They were led by Dr Marie Bryce whose PhD examined ’Education policies and the development of the colonial state in the Belgian Congo, 1916-1939’ and covered a range of topics including the political motivations for education provision, training for emergent occupational groups, and the provision of medical education.

In its conclusions section the report offers seven bulleted ways: “in which GDC FtP can be improved.” These include training and upskilling GDC staff that deal with FTP “regardless of organisational structure.” Also mentioned is improving data collection and storage, and developing a “shared and agreed considerations list with associated categorical data collection.” That it took an outside report to identify these basic areas and indeed that they were clearly found in need of improvement, says much about the GDC’s operational failings. That the GDC was happy to sit on this report for four months says much about the GDC’s culture.

It is not possible to give a full flavour of the report here, however there are clearly basic process related shortcomings at the GDC. Appendix C deals with the current data structure used by the GDC with extracts from examples used to show the format. The report has annotated areas that might be improved. Comments include:

  • Duplication of records, or  records with almost identical data
  • Most informant demographic data is missing
  • Mismatch between referrals and apparent stage of records
  • Missing, unclassified and mixed ‘system missing’ categories exist across most variables
  • Mismatch between closure statuses
  • Difficult to discern status within and between cases (eg in progress/open/closed)

       And in one instance, simply:

  • Large amount of missing data

The GDC have a penchant for commissioning research. It is not clear if this comes from genuine curiosity, or an institutional desire to find a fig leaf to cover their questionable actions, or as a stalling tactic to avoid making actual decisions. The GDC website carrying the synopsis of the document contains links to two further pieces of research commissioned by the GDC relating to FTP.

Registrants are familiar with the reflective learning process and in particular the “what did you learn” and “how will you apply this” questions that this generates. The GDC appear to have commissioned a questionable piece of work at considerable expense, primarily so that four months later when in a tight spot they can refer to it and hope that the promise of its title will convince outsiders, including  The Professional Standards Authority, that they are interested in improving FtP.

Unlocking the potential of GDC fitness to practise data (


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