Dental Protection is accusing a GDC investigation of undercover tactics to ‘trick dentists’ into wrong doing.
Its concerns stem from a 2016 case where a dental technician was subject of an anonymous complaint to the regulator.
Two months afterwards, the General Dental Council (GDC) instructed an under-guise operation where two private investigators attempted to lure the dental technician into doing something against his better judgement on compassionate grounds.
‘The fact that the GDC targets its own registrants without a sufficiently justified cause is, in itself, unsettling for dentists,’ Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, said.
‘But what I find most concerning and disappointing is the covert nature of the GDC investigation.
‘The use of an entirely contrived scenario about a sick pensioner in very difficult circumstances is designed to trigger an emotional response and lure a registrant into acting outside of their scope.
‘Consequently, this is hardly an ordinary opportunity for wrongdoing, and it is unfair and invasive.
‘The GDC investigation asserted that under-guise investigations are essential to carry out its statutory function.
‘At Dental Protection, we do not agree with that, and will continue to fight our members’ corner on this issue.’
GDC investigation response
An Interim Orders Committee concluded any evidence from the investigation into the dental technician is flawed and unfair.
Consequently the GDC Practice Committee halted any further action on grounds that the investigation demonstrated abuse of process.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Dental Protection shows the regulator spent £15,416 on covert GDC investigations in 2017.
‘In order to fulfil its statutory function, namely the protection of the public, the GDC investigates complaints or information received in respect of a registrant’s fitness to practise,’ a spokesperson for the GDC told Dentistry.co.uk.
‘There are number of methods open to us in pursuit of this.
‘This includes the use of external investigators, however this approach is one that used in exceptional circumstances.
‘The GDC has a legal duty to investigate fitness to practise concerns.
‘This is an option we may exercise where we are unable to rely on evidence from an informant.
‘For example where information which represents a potential danger to the public is sent to us anonymously.
‘And where no alternate route is open.’
The British Dental Association (BDA) has also expressed its concerns over what it describes as ‘entrapment’.
It says the regulator should concentrate on proportionate action.
The association goes on to list what it describes as growing areas of threat to dental patients.
‘When illegal tooth whitening is running rampant and braces are being flogged via websites, the GDC should be using tactics like mystery shoppers to protect patients,’ Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, said.
‘Entrapment is entirely another matter.
‘These sort of Stasi tactics are not a good look for a professional regulator that lists its values as “fairness, transparency, responsiveness and respect”.’