GDCThe General Dental Council (GDC) has responded to claims its investigations are causing serious health issues for some dental professionals.

A DDU investigation found that 59% of professionals involved in a GDC investigation over the last five years worry about another investigation, with 14% having suggered serious health problems after a complaint, causing the GDC to comment on the findings.

Significant improvements

‘We have made a number of significant changes to the Fitness to Practise (FtP) process in recent years; many with the aim of reducing the stress of the process and providing more support for practitioners who are involved in it,’ Jonathan Green, director of fitness to practise at the General Dental Council, said.

‘We ask every dental professional involved in the FtP process for feedback on their experience and feed any learning back into our improvement programme.

‘We have also worked with Samaritans and the BDA Benevolent Fund to provide training for all staff on identifying and supporting practitioners who are struggling to cope with the system and to create improved signposting for them.

‘We have developed a more proportionate approach in our early triage process, which has included using “cease and desist” letters more frequently and making sure that less serious cases are referred to other organisations in a better and often more appropriate place to deal with the issues, which is often the dental practice.

‘Our work on signposting patients to the Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board joint statement on complaints is also helping to change patient behaviour.

‘However, we want to go further than this.

‘We want to rethink the model of dental regulation, so that it focuses on preventing harm rather than responding to it.

‘We are doing this for the benefit of patients.

‘We want to work with professionals, partners and patients to further examine what we mean by “serious”, which will help to ensure that we are only deploying our FtP powers – which unlocks tools to manage serious risk – where it is appropriate.

‘Overall the quality of dental care is good.

‘Relative to the amount of dental appointments that happen each year, the proportion that result in a complaint or an FtP issue is very small.

‘Less than 2% of the total number of people on the register ever enter the process.

‘By using education and learning, we want to support dental professionals throughout their career to improve their knowledge, skills and behaviour.

‘I am confident that our proposals in Shifting the Balance can make the system better for patients and fairer for dental professionals and strengthen public confidence in dental services.

‘There is no denying being referred to FtP can be extremely stressful.

‘We have learned from the feedback we have received and the work of other regulators and organisations in managing stress created by the regulatory process.

‘We remain committed to making ongoing operational and strategic improvements to our FtP process to make sure that it does not unduly or unnecessarily add to that stress.’