The GDC has introduced case examiners to carry out decision making functions currently performed by the investigating committee.
The case examiners, introduced today (1 November), will be given new powers so they can agree undertakings with practitioners, avoiding the need for cases to go through to an investigation.
‘Introducing case examiners will benefit patients, the public and dental professionals and improve the efficiency of the GDC’s fitness to practise process,’ Jonathan Green, diirector of fitness to practise at the General Dental Council (GDC), said.
‘By not having to frequently convene an investigating committee, we will be able to make decisions much quicker than before, which benefits patients as we can take action straight away action to support the dental professional to improve their practise.
‘This new way of working is also more cost effective, and at the same time relieves unnecessary stress to the dental professional.
‘Where a professional demonstrates insight into their failings, remorse and a desire to remediate, we now have a mechanism to be much more proportionate and to make agreements without having to hold a full hearing.
‘We only want to deploy our investigatory and prosecuting powers where they can make a difference to patient safety and protect public confidence in dental services, which inevitably will be in only the most serious and complex cases.’
The 14 case examiners will be made up of clinical and lay members and will work in pairs.
The pairs, made up of one clinical and one lay case examiner, will then assess evidence gathered during an investigation and make a decision on any further action, which may include issuing a warning, offering undertakings (agreements) or taking no further action and closing the case.
‘I am pleased to be joining the GDC during this exciting time and I am ready for the challenge to improve dental regulation,’ Glenn Mathieson, one of the new case examiners, said.
‘The new mechanism is about patient safety as case examiners will be able to make agreements with the dental professional much quicker than ever before.
‘The GDC wants to be a learning organisation and to help foster a learning culture in the profession.
‘Allowing a dental professional to improve patient care by raising standards through continuing education and feeding back any relevant learning to the profession, rather than taking punitive action through a stressful hearings process, is much better for all concerned.’
Case examiners will now take over the decision-making functions currently performed by the investigating committee.
They will have the new power of agreeing undertakings with practitioners in relevant cases, which can happen far earlier in the investigation, meaning some dental professionals will no longer have to go through lengthy and potentially stressful practice committee hearings.
When there is a realistic prospect of the dental practitioner’s fitness to practise being impaired, they will refer the case to one of the three practice committees (conduct, performance and health).