The GDC today launched its discussion document, Shifting the balance, setting out its plans over the next three years.
The proposals will shift the focus from enforcement to prevention, the General Dental Council (GDC) claims, by ‘moving processes further upstream’ – preventing problems before they reach the GDC.
Specifically changes will focus on modernising continuous professional development so that dental professionals are better supported by the education they receive throughout their career.
‘Today’s plans present a significant shift in how we will regulate dental professionals in the future,’ Bill Moyes, chair of the General Dental Council, said.
‘At present, we deal with harm after things have gone wrong, investigating the resultant complaints and where necessary, applying sanctions.
‘For the future, we want to give much more emphasis to preventing patients being harmed in the first place and ensuring lessons are learned from the cases that come to the GDC.
‘This is better for patients and for dental professionals, and for the reputation of the entire dental team.’
The document focuses on four different areas: moving processes upstream, first-tier resolutions, delivery with partners and refocusing FtP.
Some of the main changes in Shifting the balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation include:
- Supporting the profession through a range of education and continuous professional development activities – including embedding the Standards for the dental team, ensuring dental students and trainees are properly equipped from when they graduate and that these skills are maintained throughout their career
- Ensuring patients feel their concerns are appropriately raised and resolved – the GDC wants the ability of the dental sector to deal with complaints enhanced so that issues are dealt with appropriately in the practice
- Continuing its commitment to build and improve working with partners – including corporate providers, the NHS, professional associations and so on
- Making fitness to practise (FtP) processes more clear – when the GDC will use its enforcement powers to manage serious risk to patients and when voluntary undertakings are more appropriate.
‘We know that the overall model of dental regulation has its flaws,’ Ian Brack, chief executive of the GDC, said speaking exclusively to Dentistry.co.uk.
‘It can be cumbersome.
‘It can be inefficient.
‘It doesn’t always put patient protection first.
‘But equally, we are of course limited in what we can do by legislation.
‘We can sit around waiting for legislation to change or we can ask what’s going beyond the GDC that we can do within the existing limits.
‘That’s what we’re really looking at.
‘There’s been at least a year’s work put into what we’re seeing here in terms of building up thinking, getting a better understanding of what we can do, and looking at areas where we can engage with the profession.
‘We have made it clear from the outset that we cannot do this alone – the proposals require fundamentally better collaboration with others than we have achieved in the past.
‘I am confident that our proposals can make the system better for patients and fairer for dental professionals and strengthen public confidence in dental services.’