I wanted to write in response to The Untouchables.
Removal of a dental professional from the register is never a matter to be celebrated. Our role is to ensure that only suitably qualified professionals, with current expertise, who understand their obligations to patients and take them seriously, are permitted to practice dentistry. We know that the vast majority of the profession support us in that aim.
We work very hard to ensure that cases are fully and properly investigated, hearings are fair and decisions are proportionate. We are confident that we made the right decision to remove Professor Ninian Peckitt from the register for violent conduct towards a patient and for dishonesty, after already having been removed from the medical register by the General Medical Council. You can find the full account of the case. Professor Ninian Peckitt has since appealed the practice committee’s decision. The council will be opposing the appeal.
That is not to say that the system of professional regulation cannot be improved. Far from it. We are working very hard to make improvements to the fitness to practise process. We acknowledge that going through the statutory processes of fitness to practise – whatever the regulators might do to lighten the load for professionals within the existing system – can be adversarial, expensive and stressful. In that respect, going through fitness to process can sometimes feel like a punishment in itself regardless of whether there is actually a case to answer. We recognise that. That’s why we think it’s in all our interests to work together to find better ways of doing things.
Last year we received just over 3,000 complaints. A proportion could have been dealt with locally between the complainant and the dentist and/or practice rather than it appearing before a fitness to practise hearing. We are shortly coming to an end of an NHS England pilot that encourages local resolution where possible.
Important changes in legislation will allow us to introduce case examiners later this year. The consultation to agree undertakings closes on 14 March. This will streamline much of our fitness to practise process, which benefits both patients and the dental profession as we are able to make decisions – and as necessary, take action – much more quickly, helping individuals in the process to meet the required standards for the benefit of patients.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in much needed modernisation of the whole system of professional regulation.
We need a complete rethink of the overall approach to regulation. We need to ask ourselves what – and importantly who – this form of regulation is for and what it is actually achieving in terms of outcomes for patients. We need to recast the balance between sanctions, incentives and learning so that the focus is on preventing harm, rather than focusing effort on punishment after harm occurs.
That is why we warmly welcome Under Secretary of State for Quality Ben Gummer’s intention to consult on the future of professional regulation and we will be making detailed proposals as part of that consultation.
We want to work with patients, dental professionals and our other stakeholders to develop our proposals.
You can read The Untouchables article from Ninian Peckitt here.