Radio 4 on the GDC – just one big secret?

Last July, I wrote on this blog: ‘The General Dental Council (GDC) is falling apart at the seams.’ I concluded that the GDC had lost not only the confidence of the profession, but also of its own regulator, the CHRE.

The Radio 4 programme: Face the Facts, Fit to Practise, made similar points in a broadcast today (11 January).

CHRE chief executive, Harry Cayton, outlined many of his concerns about the GDC, but said that overall they are protecting the public.

‘There has been enough evidence in healthcare generally that such secrecy is rife and damaging to the public. Until whistleblowers can express their fears publicly, and the press including the dental press, can report these concerns, such abuses will continue’

One case dealt with in some detail was that of Rotherham dentist, Mr Siddiqui who was suspended by the PCT following allegations of poor infection control practice at his surgery.

One patient told the programme that it was like a teenager’s bedroom. He was not struck off but allowed to continue in practice, albeit with 21 strict conditions.

GDC chief executive, Evlynne Gilvarry, told the programme that the period of instability that was evident when she took post a year ago was over. The GDC had turned a corner and was making significant progress which would continue.

Harry Cayton has been told by the government to investigate the complaints made by former GDC chair, Alison Lockyer.

This is likely to mean more change for the GDC and probably higher retention fees for dentists as a result.

The GDC is already looking at proposals to reduce its numbers to around eight, in line with the thoughts of the CHRE.

At the same time the role of the chief executive and senior management is being enhanced.

A second point that I took from the programme is one made by Gilvarry. It was the job of the GDC, she said, to protect patients, not punish dentists.

In other words if the 21 conditions imposed allow Siddiqui to continue to see patients safely, then the GDC has fulfilled its role. It is not there to punish him for past misdeeds.

Whether dentists suspended for a few months for ‘bringing the profession into disrepute’ would see that as anything other than a punishment is a moot point.

A dentist removed from the Register for not paying up at the end of last year by mistake probably does not see this as ‘protecting the public’.

My last thought was the secrecy that still surrounds the topic. The programme mentioned Alison Lockyer but could not interview her; two people who had worked on GDC committees had pseudonyms and their words spoken by actors.

Yet there has been enough evidence in healthcare generally that such secrecy is rife and damaging to the public.

Until whistleblowers can express their fears publicly, and the press including the dental press, can report these concerns, such abuses will continue.

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