Eddie Scher challenges the GDC to answer his tough questions on dental regulation and start living up to its promises to change.

Many column inches have been devoted to the GDC and its problems since fitness to practise rates started soaring, the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) increase and ‘that’ advert which ran in the national press.

I’ve contributed a lot myself, between my calls for reform and recounting my own tales of being hauled – unfairly – through an FtP case and eventual hearing.

For what seems like forever, we in the dental profession have complained bitterly about our treatment at the hands of an uncaring – if not downright vindictive – regulator. And with good cause.

There are times when my voice has been among the loudest in the wilderness. I was the only dentist unaffiliated to an organisation who attended the Health Select Committee hearing back in 2015, for example.

Changes

In recent months, I have come to feel a change in the weather – a gradual turning of the behemoth that is GDC policy and attitude. I’ve met with many of the organisation’s executives, and even lectured with Matthew Hill, the GDC’s executive director of strategy, and doing so has only furthered that feeling.

But this new direction isn’t gaining the traction that it needs to; at least not when it comes to the profession itself. These changes are either too gradual, vague or not going far enough to win dental professionals’ hearts and minds. And when the backdrop of this is a profession that’s lost trust in its own regulator, I think that’s a problem.

Let me put my head above the parapet here. I believe in regulation. Members of the dental team, like other health professionals, are in a privileged position. Patients trust us to care for them: often when they are at their most vulnerable. With that privilege comes responsibility – and our regulator helps us interpret, understand and apply that responsibility.

I believe that the GDC is the most appropriate body to provide that regulation, and I believe it’s trying to change.

But belief can only carry so much weight, and we are talking about people’s livelihoods here. Dentistry is my life and passion, but it’s not a religion and the GDC needs to offer its registrants something more than faith alone if it wants to head forwards.

Challenge

So, General Dental Council, I’m calling your bluff. You tell us that you want to change. You have told me something similar in person: that you are changing, but it takes time. The time has now come to prove it.

I challenge you, here on Dentistry.co.uk, to answer these questions:

  • What is happening with fitness to practise? Are your changes having any effect on numbers?
  • When can we see some concrete information that you’re doing what you’ve said you will? Where is the timetable for change?
  • If record keeping is such an area of concern for you, why aren’t you doing more to address it in your CPD requirements?
  • Will you change your mission to ‘Working with the dental profession to protect the patient?’