GDC launches changes in fitness to practise process

Gavel during fitness to practise hearingThe General Dental Council (GDC) is launching a nine-month pilot changing its fitness to practise ‘Rule 4’ process.

Rule 4 enables dental professionals an opportunity to provide their own comments about concerns raised.

From the end of January, the changes will include the following:

  • A 14-day extension, by application, to the Rule 4-time limit (28 days) for cases involving clinical concerns, where the individual has no other fitness to practise matters being actively considered
  • Availability of clinical assessments earlier than the ‘Rule 4’ papers bundle, to facilitate efficient preparation of dental professional’s comments.

‘We understand, and are sympathetic to, the time pressures faced by dental professionals and their representatives in the fitness to practise process,’ GDC executive director, fitness to practise transition, Tom Scott, said.

‘Extending the time frame in certain cases to ensure we receive the best possible evidence aligns with our view that case examiners need fully informing of all relevant facts as early as possible.

‘I’d like to thank all of those who responded to the consultation for their views.

‘The overall support for the proposals is welcome.

‘We now look forward to seeing how they will work in practice.’

Non-clinical cases

The dental regulator launched a consultation about the ‘Rule 4’ process in fitness to practise last year.

The consultation also raised calls for the extension to apply to all cases, not just clinical cases.

However, the GDC says it needs to consider patient safety and the timely disposal of cases.

‘We welcome the nine-month pilot announced by the GDC,’ Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, said.

‘However, we call for the extension to also apply to non-clinical cases when the GDC completes the pilot.

‘In non-clinical cases, dental professionals often need more time to respond to allegations.

‘Particularly where there is a health issue or serious allegations involving probity.

‘We would also like the GDC to make clear that the granting of an extension at the Rule 4 stage will not prevent a subsequent extension later in the Fitness to Practice (FtP) process.’

Registration fees

The GDC has also introduced registration application fees for unregistered dental professionals this year.

Accordingly, these new fees will apply to almost all applications for first registrations.

This move has contributed to the reduction in annual retention fee (ARF) announced last year.

‘One of the central principles we apply when setting and charging fees is that the cost of regulating each professional group should determine the levels charged,’ GDC executive director, registration and corporate services, Gurvinder Soomal, said.

‘One of the ways we do this is by minimising instances where registrants fund regulatory activity not generated by them.

‘Therefore the introduction of this fee applies this principle to registration applications.

‘It enables us to remove this cost from the ARF.’

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