Giving evidence to the health select committee, William Moyes, the GDC’s chairman, admitted to a ‘genuine loss of confidence’ in the organisation among many dentists.
But Mr Moyes argued that unhappiness flowed from ‘misconceptions about the role of the GDC’ – and pointed to ‘quite a bit of dissatisfaction’ among patients about the quality of NHS dentistry.
He told the committee: ‘We are very clear that the GDC’s prime responsibility is to protect patients.
‘Overall, there is a decent level of patient satisfaction, but – when you go into the light and shade – there’s quite a bit of dissatisfaction among certain groups
‘Some people felt sufficiently dissatisfied – 13,000 in fact – to write to a national body.’
Mr Moyes insisted the GDC was ‘not sitting complacently’, owning up to weak communication and organisation and adding: ‘We are working very hard to make the GDC a different organisation.’
But he argued some of the solutions were out of its control, because the GDC required changes to the law that had been secured before the looming general election.
Mr Moyes said: ‘It’s disappointing that that’s not going to happen in this Parliament – but hopefully they will happen in time.’
But the chairman was given a rough ride by the committee, one of the members asking if he should ‘consider his position’.
He replied: ‘I don’t think there are any grounds for asking that question.
‘I don’t see any grounds for saying we are not tackling the problems we inherited very seriously – and the results are coming through.’
Mr Moyes admitted he had lost the support of the British Dental Association (BDA), but argued 2014 was ‘not a typical year’ and said: ‘The BDA represents less than half of dentists.’
He agreed too many cases were reaching fitness to practise hearings, stating his desire for an intermediate stage for cases ‘not at the most serious end’.
But cases were already being processed quicker, with the backlog ‘almost completely eliminated’.
Mr Moyes said: ‘We think the investment we have made is beginning to pay off.’
Alongside the chairman, Evlynne Gilvarry, the GDC’s chief executive and registrar, admitted it had been ‘a very difficult and troubled year’.
But she pointed out that it was also the regulator for 40,000 dental care professionals, who had not given the body the same ‘volley of criticism’ as many dentists.
The ‘accountability hearing’ followed criticism of the GDC’s huge registration fee hike, a 55% rise from £576 to £890.
The BDA’s campaign against those higher fees led to the regulator being found to have acted unlawfully in its handling of the consultation.
But Mr Moyes played down that verdict, arguing the only criticism had been of the GDC’s failure to properly link the expected number of complaints with its costs.
He said: ‘That’s what it comes down to – and it’s a lesson we’ve learned.’