The General Dental Council (GDC) has been officially ticked off for its shoddy handling of fitness-to-practise cases six months after a catalogue of disasters were highlighted in a previous audit.
And now the British Dental Association is suggesting that the publication this week of this audit carried out by the by super-regulator, Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), will only create further concern about the GDC’s performance.
The audit, published on Monday (4 September), identified a number of significant issues with GDC processes, including:
• Incomplete information gathering by GDC FTP staff
• Decision letters that did not fully address all the issues or properly explain why the GDC was taking no further action
• Unexplained delays in the FTP processes
• Poor record keeping
• Non-compliance with the GDC’s policy that cases cannot be closed by a single caseworker unless their decision is appropriately authorised.
The report also highlighted one case that concerned a number of serious issues with the safety of a registrant’s practice in relation to a number of patients.
The case was eventually referred for an interim order application that was not risk-assessed until three months after receipt.
There was then a further delay of eight months before the interim order application was heard by an Interim Orders Committee.
The CHRE reviewed 100 cases that had been closed by the GDC between 1 November 2010 and 30 April 2011.
These were selected from the 729 cases that the GDC closed in the period, without referral for a hearing by either the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) or the Health Committee (HC).
Damningly, the review says that GDC assurances that it would take action to address weaknesses identified by previous CHRE reports have either not been fully implemented or have failed to have any noticeable effect.
Peter Ward, chief executive of the BDA, said: ‘This report is a catalogue of errors that asks profound questions about the GDC’s ability to fulfil one of its core responsibilities. It does not reflect favourably on an organisation that has undergone significant change in recent years, with a poorly managed move away from professional self-regulation and a massive expansion in the professionals it registers.
‘The publication of the report comes on top of BDA concerns about the GDC’s priority setting and is likely to damage the confidence of both patients and dentists in the body. It must now concentrate on addressing the concerns this report identifies and demonstrating it is a competent force in the regulation of dentistry. Dentists and patients alike need a regulator that they know is reliable, professional and fit for purpose.’