Closure rate at each stage of the Fitness to Practise process in 2022
The diagram below shows the average closure rate at the different stages of the Fitness to Practise process (this is the average of cases actioned in 2022 rather than the number of cases received). This is illustrative of where the decisions to close cases were made and includes cases that started in previous years, rather than reflecting the outcomes for concerns received in 2022, many of which are yet to be resolved.
We received 1,264 new concerns in 2022, compared to 1,349 in 2021 – a 6% decrease. We made 1,242 initial assessment decisions, some of which were from cases received at the end of 2021. A small number of cases were received too late for us to make an initial assessment decision in 2022. Of all the cases reviewed at initial assessment, 85% were referred for assessment.
After further investigation, we made 1,267 assessment decisions in 2022, compared to 869 in 2021 – a 46% increase. This increase was a result of us being able to address the resourcing issues we experienced in 2021. Our caseload in this area decreased, by 9%, which is mainly due to the lower number of concerns received this year.
We further increased the capacity and capability in our casework team through additional recruitment, providing permanent roles for existing experienced caseworkers and improving how we train new starters. We increased the number of casework staff by around 20 full time equivalent (FTE) (40%). We know that it can take up to 12 months to fully train new team members and get them up to speed, so it will take time to get on top of the excess caseload.
We carried our significantly more assessments in 2022. However, as many of these cases had become older than they should have been, we were not able to improve the time it takes for cases to be assessed during 2022.
Many of the assessed cases completed commenced before 2022. We referred 40% of the cases reviewed at assessment stage to case examiners and closed 60% of cases at this stage. This equated to 34% of total cases received progressing to case examiner review.
Following case examiner review, 19% of the total cases were closed with no further action,9% closed with advice, warning or undertakings and 16% were referred to a Practice Committee. Of this 16%, 13% resulted in sanctions and 3% resulted in no further action (compared to 14% and 5% in 2021.)
Case examiners made 326 decisions in 2022, a 7% increase compared to 2021(304).This reflects the increased resourcing that resulted in more cases being referred to case examiners. Of these 326 cases, the case examiners closed 52% and referred 48% to a Practice Committee. In 2021, case examiners closed 55% and referred 45% to a Practice Committee.
There were 156 case examiner referrals to the Practice Committees, a 14% increase compared to 2021. Case examiners also referred seven of these cases to the Interim Orders Committee.
In 2022, the percentage of cases closed at the initial assessment stage increased from 13% to 15% (including those referred to the NHS) while the percentage of cases resulting in a hearing decreased to 16%, compared to 2021 (19%). We believe these changes are, at least in part, as a result of our efforts with the profession and the public to avoid inappropriate matters being raised with us.
Further details of our performance can be found in the Fitness to Practise statistical report, published separately.
Fitness to Practise hearings
Cases referred by case examiners are heard by one of three statutory Practice Committees. Each panel comprises two dental professionals, one of whom must be a dentist, and a lay member. The Practice Committees completed 85 initial hearings in 2022, a decrease from the 115 initial hearings held in 2021. The number of cases awaiting an initial hearing was 145 at the end of 2022, compared to 131 at the end of 2021 – a increase of 11%.
The table below show the outcomes of all Fitness to Practise initial hearings in 2021 and 2022.