When I saw the whole page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph, my first thought was that one of the 'ambulance chasers', sorry, excellent legal firms who target the dental and medical professions in negligence cases, had ramped up their promotional campaign a bit.
It was only on closer inspection that it became clear that this was an advertisement placed by our own regulator – at a not inconsiderable expense (£5,500 inc. VAT).
On the back of the recent outrageous hike in annual retention fee (ARF) contributions, this really did add insult to injury.
What I find particularly galling is the clear double standards of the General Dental Council (GDC).
I appreciate that there is a need to regulate the profession and that some colleagues will need to be disciplined through Fitness to Practise hearings.
However, when I, and dental care professionals who I know well, have brought instances of both denturism and tooth whitening being practised illegally to the attention of the GDC, it didn’t want to know – it must be put forward by a patient.
Apparently we have a ‘vested interest’ – well if caring about the dental health of the UK population gives me a ‘vested interest’ then yes, I have one.
I also started to think about how we get for our money from the GDC.
As the above examples illustrate, in my experience the GDC certainly does not ‘work for and on behalf of’ the profession.
It certainly is not presenting UK dentistry in a good light.
Recent Facebook posts on the GDC page (www.facebook.com/GeneralDentalCouncil) have been crass and insensitive.
As the recent advertisement illustrates, the GDC now seems to view fitness to practise (FtP) as first base rather than a last resort (and, as society becomes ever more litigious, this will only ever get worse without safeguards in place).
We don’t even have the ability to protest about the ineffectiveness of our regulator; if we do not pay our annual ARF then we will be struck off.
I also believe the GDC to be responsible for one of the worst decisions I can remember in UK dentistry – not to have a vocational training (VT) equivalent for dental care professionals (DCPs).
The introduction of VT for dentists was a brilliant safeguard for the public and practice owners; why not the same for DCPs?
The solution? I am no great student of GDC infrastructure or dental politics for that matter but it seems to me that the key issues that need to be addressed are:
- The GDC has to have a more wide-ranging role in the dental education of the public. As long as it only sees itself as a stick with which to beat dentists, we will get nowhere. It has to work harder at ‘protecting the public’ more generally, getting good oral health messages out to them and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own mouths. Getting across that dentists want what is best for the patient; we are not just after their money
- I feel that by having 50% lay membership and 50% dental professional, the council is losing the empathy of what dentists see and face on a daily basis. I understand the need for lay representation but would suggest a split of 75%:25% would be better. I would also expect the dental members of the council to be ‘wet fingered’ – a dentist who is not at the coalface has not much greater understanding of the issues than a member of the public
- What is the current criteria for a case to pass to FtP? Is there a recognised methodology and if not, why not?
- The ability to propose a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the council if certain voting thresholds are reached, eg 66% of GDC registrants.
I feel that adopting these four points would at least be the start of a long journey for the GDC to recover the profession’s respect and goodwill.
One good thing to come out of all of this, is that this is the first time in years that I can remember the British Dental Association actually doing something.
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