John Makin reflects on the GDC’s latest plans for reform.

Few would disagree with the stated aim in the GDC’s recent discussion document Shifting the balance, of easing the fitness to practise burden on the profession.

The GDC says it intends to reduce the number of complaints it receives by focusing on local complaints resolution.

This is welcome news, but it should be remembered that it is not only individuals who must play their part.

Organisations such as NHS England, health boards, the CQC and the ombudsman can also contribute to a reduction in the number of complaints unnecessarily escalated to the regulator.

If you haven’t read the proposals yet, I would urge you to do so and let the GDC know what you think. In addition to the laudable complaints handling initiatives, the document introduces a number of topics which, if implemented, could have a significant impact on the very nature of our profession and how it is defined.

Most significant in my view, is the suggestion that in future the GDC may be less concerned with issues relating to the profession’s reputation.

Protection of the public

On page 55, the GDC says it proposes that fitness to practise processes ‘beyond simple reputation of the profession (which arguably the profession is itself best placed to uphold) should be clearly linked to risk to individual patients, public confidence in dental services and/or maintaining proper professional standards and conduct.’

It seems to me that protecting the reputation of the profession is inextricably linked to maintaining public confidence, which is essential for the protection of the public and to maintain public trust in the advice and services we offer.

Many of the GDC’s own documents, such as those relied on for fitness to practise processes, are predicated upon this principle, which is, arguably, one of the fundamental pillars upon which our profession is founded.

We would never wish to see the GDC interfering in an unnecessarily illiberal manner and I acknowledge that it is difficult to reconcile ethical standards with the fast moving, increasingly commercialised dental world.

However, I suspect that many within the profession will consider that as self-regulation is one of the fundamental and defining characteristics of a profession, safeguarding its reputation remains one of the central roles of the GDC.

The DDU will be responding to the GDC’s proposals on behalf of our members.