Clinical advice at early stage of investigation of complaints against dental professionals is in the pipeline.
The General Dental Council (GDC) has announced the latest in a raft of measures aimed at improving the handling of complaints against dental professionals.
From early 2012, it will seek clinical advice at a much earlier stage than at present in appropriate cases.
The advice will be provided by a panel of dental advisors through an arrangement with the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS).
Currently, all cases involving complaints about clinical treatment are referred to the GDC’s Investigating Committee for consideration – a process that may take six months and is the earliest point for receiving a clinical opinion.
Often, the IC concludes, on the basis of clinical opinion, that no further action is necessary.
This approach is unsatisfactory from the point of view of all parties as it involves unnecessary delay, and anxiety.
In seeking clinical opinion at a much earlier stage, the GDC will be able to assess, whether in conjunction with other information, the case needs to be referred to the Investigating Committee.
In addition, the new process will involve notifying dental professionals sooner that a complaint has been made against them, enabling them to provide records and relevant information to the GDC at an earlier stage.
Director of Regulation at the GDC, Neil Marshall said: ‘The changes we are making to our Fitness to Practise processes are all aimed at improving the quality and speed of complaints handling to ensure patients are protected effectively.
‘This arrangement with NCAS will be key to making sure there are no unnecessary delays in assessing the clinical aspects of cases.’