At the start of 2021, the pandemic continued to have a profound effect on patients and the public, the dental sector and wider economic landscape. Our statutory purpose remained unchanged: to protect the public. We continued to deliver this, reprioritising work to ensure that we operated efficiently and effectively.
We also changed how we worked, improving our use of video technology in order to continue to deliver hearings safely, fairly and efficiently, with most hearings held remotely. Although the majority of staff worked remotely from home for much of the year, staff in our core operational functions worked from our Birmingham office throughout 2021.
We designed the Costed Corporate Plan (CCP) for 2021 to be flexible and to facilitate changes to the detail and profile of the plan throughout the year as priorities changed.
Understanding the diversity of our stakeholders remained important and we published our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in May 2021. We improved our equality monitoring forms and 104,000 dental professionals updated their personal information, 92% of the register. We will use this data to shape future policies and ensure that the regulatory framework is fair.
We launched a payment by instalment option to dental care professionals (DCPs) in May and dentists in October. This allowed the Annual Retention Fee (ARF), to be paid in four equal instalments spread across the year, an option which 10% of DCPs and 16% of dentists chose to take. Council reviewed the ARF but decided to leave the rate unchanged, despite the very high uncertainty around our costs and the risk of reduced income because of the pandemic.
We made progress on important work towards achieving our long-term ambition of moving dental professional regulation increasingly toward preventing harm to patients and the public, rather than responding to the consequences of it. We completed research to understand what professionalism means to patients and dental professionals, using this to design a draft set of new principles of professionalism.
Working with stakeholders, we created a guide to help employers and managers of dental professionals, who may not be registered professionals themselves, to support the dental team and play an important role in ensuring patients receive high standards of service and care.
Our operational effectiveness and efficiency were improved by implementing a new telephone system, people software system, credit card processing systems and upgrading our IT infrastructure.
The flexible design of the Costed Corporate Plan enabled us to accommodate some unplanned pieces of work in 2021, including the significant activity to restart Part 2 sittings of the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) in January 2022, which had been suspended since early 2020 due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
We remain convinced that the Government’s proposals for reform of healthcare professional regulation are essential if we are to deliver an effective and proportionate regulatory system. We are also clear that we need reform to happen at pace. The scope and timetable of regulatory reform remain unclear, and we continue to work with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to understand and provide feedback on proposals including legislative reform and international registration.
We made fewer assessment decisions in 2021 compared to 2020, reflecting some resourcing issues. We increased the capacity of our Fitness to Practise casework team by around 20 FTE (40%), in response to a significant 51% increase in our caseload during 2021. Previous experience tells us that it takes around 12 months for the team to settle, learn and get on top of the excess caseload.
After serving two terms as Council Members, William Moyes (as Chair) and Catherine Brady left office on 30 September 2021. Following an open and competitive recruitment exercise, the Privy Council made two new appointments to the Council, from 1 October 2021. These were the Chair and Member of the Council, Lord Harris of Haringey, and Angie Heilman MBE, as a registrant Member of the Council. Crispin Passmore left office on 31 December 2021, having served four years as a Council Member.
Finally, 2021 continued to be a challenging year for the GDC and dental professionals. We would like to thank the GDC’s Council Members, associates and staff for continuing to make progress on positive change, and dental professionals for delivering dental services and keeping patients safe.
Lord Toby Harris Ian Brack
Chair Chief Executive and Registrar