Detailed below are some of the key areas of work progressed or completed and projects implemented in 2022:
Dental Professionals Hearings Service
We created a new identity and name for our hearings service and launched the Dental Professional Hearings Service in June 2022. This further highlighted the independence of the hearings function from our investigation and prosecution functions and improved the experience for all who attend a hearing. All communications relating to a hearing now come from the Dental Professionals Hearings Service, which has its own dedicated hearings website, where all the information relating to dental hearings can be found in one place.
Since its launch we have sought feedback from users and stakeholders, and work continues to make further improvements to the hearings service based on the feedback received. Improvement work completed in 2022 included ensuring that the service was accessible, and that our communications were clear, concise and appropriate in tone to all parties.
GDC Corporate Strategy 2023 – 2025
We developed and consulted on our new Corporate Strategy for 2023 – 2025, which was approved by Council in October 2022. Extensive stakeholder engagement activity took place throughout 2022 to inform our strategic ambitions and priorities. This work was undertaken in tandem with the development of our Costed Corporate Plan for 2023 – 2025 to ensure the work we had planned was aligned with our strategic direction.
Tone of voice of our communications
Ensuring our communications are effective and appropriate for each of our audience groups remains a priority for us. We wanted to ensure our communications were appropriate and relevant to different audience groups, and knew we needed to improve our tone of voice. All GDC staff received training on writing styles, the use of plain English and using different language for different audiences and channels.
This change has been well received, and work will continue in 2023 to further improve our tone of voice, with a particular focus on fitness to practise.
Paperless registration – UK
Work commenced to develop a paperless registration process. This included a review of our existing process, and following an analysis of potential solutions and providers, we sourced solutions to deliver this. We anticipate that this service will be launched in 2024. Once the service is launched for UK applications, we will begin work to understand how we can effectively offer a paperless process for overseas applications.
We worked closely with the DHSC to progress the legislative changes needed to remove unnecessary constraints on how the overseas registration examination (ORE) is run, and to provide greater flexibility in how we ensure that overseas qualified dental professionals meet the required standards to practise in the UK. The new legislation took longer than we had hoped, eventually becoming law in March 2023. However, many of the changes will not come into effect or have any impact until after March 2024. This will have operational and contractual consequences for the GDC as the existing arrangements remained in place for longer than we had hoped. Work on this will continue in 2023.
We continued to run the ORE throughout 2022, and worked collaboratively with our providers to ensure we were able to confirm examination dates as soon as it was safe and feasible to do so. This enabled us to prioritise the exam invitations to those candidates who were nearing the end of their five-year window.
Implemented additional back office systems to improve organisation efficiency
Back office systems are critical to our operational effectiveness and efficiency. We implemented several new back-office systems in 2022. We completed the work to replace our finance system, with the new system going live in January 2023. We continued to improve and upgrade our IT and telecommunications system infrastructure and upgraded our meeting rooms to improve the effectiveness of our hybrid multisite meetings.
Assuring the quality of education and training programmes
In 2022, we carried out reviews and inspections of education and training programmes. During the academic year August 2021 – July 2022 we granted approval to four new programmes, quality assured six dental care professional education providers and six awarding organisations through monitoring and carried out targeted monitoring of 15 dental school and 15 dental hygiene and therapy programmes.
Safe Practitioner consultation
In late 2022, we consulted on proposed changes to learning outcomes and behaviour expectations for education and training programmes leading to registration. This was important as the learning outcomes were last reviewed in 2015, and we have seen significant shifts in both dentistry and wider society since then. The proposed changes reflected these shifts and included the introduction of the term ‘safe practitioner’ to describe newly qualified dental professionals.
Unplanned work undertaken in 2022
Whilst the level of unplanned work in 2022 was less than previous years, there were still several areas where we were required to complete significant areas of work that were not planned for at the start of the year. These included:
Specialist Lists Assessed Applications (SLAA) process
Previously, all SLAA applications we received to join a specialist list were referred to the relevant Specialist Advisory Committee (SAC) to assess and make a recommendation on whether the dental professional demonstrated an equivalence to a UK Certificate of Completion Specialist Training (CCST). They would then be admitted to the applicable specialist list.
Due to ongoing issues and delays with the processing of these applications, we decided to move this activity in-house, to improve the overall process and our timeliness. Following stakeholder engagement, work commenced in late 2022 to expedite this process. We aim to start assessing these applications in-house later this year.
Despite uncertainty over both timetable and scope, preparing for regulatory reform continued to require significant staff time throughout 2022. This included working with the DHSC and other regulators. Due to the continuing uncertainty, we initiated work to consider what we could change within the framework of current legislation. This work will continue in 2023.