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News analyisis: GDC – could do better

Michael Watson provides an overview of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care report on the regulator

Every year the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) publishes a report on the performance reviews it has carried out a performance review of those regulators for which it is responsible, including the General Dental Council (GDC).

In recent years this has been critical of the procedures and performance of the GDC. However, this year the PSA found that all but one of its ‘standards of good regulation’ had been met. 

'The PSA criticised the Council for not requiring registrants to provide assurance that indemnity insurance is in place'

The GDC has most often fallen down in achieving standards in ‘fitness to practise’. This year it met all but one of them. In last year’s performance review, the PSA found failure to progress cases as quickly as possible. During 2012/13 the GDC had made improvements to its processes.

As a result, the number of cases lasting over three years had reduced from 55 to 16. On average, however, the first part of the process took over six months, with a further year before the case was heard by the fitness to practise panel. What worried the PSA was that the average time taken from the receipt of a complaint to an interim order decision is 23 weeks.

Examples of ways in which the GDC has continued to meet standards included completion of the revised standards document and distribution of the Smile leaflet, which explains the role of the GDC to patients. The Council was also commended for the outcome of the direct access consultation.

The GDC continues to meet all the standards in education and training. The GDC agreed in August 2012 to introduce an enhanced CPD scheme, which will be the first step in developing plans for a scheme to provide assurance about registrants’ continuing fitness to practise.

The GDC also continues to meet all the standards of registration. The PSA reported improved procedures of the GDC’s illegal practice team. The GDC said that this has resulted in matters being concluded quicker and in a larger number of investigations resulting in successful prosecutions. The PSA criticised the Council for not requiring registrants to provide assurance that indemnity insurance is in place.

All in all this is a better report than in previous years, although more needs to be done. The PSA has given the GDC a long list of matters they will be investigating in next year’s review.

By news correspondent Michael Watson

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