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Objective 2

30 May, 2024

Identifying and removing any barriers that patients, the public, dental professionals and partners encounter when engaging with us

As the professional regulator, we provide a service to the public and patients and to the dental professionals on our register. We need to make sure that our services are accessible to all and that there are no unnecessary barriers in place that would hinder anyone from interacting with our services. This means proactively identifying potential barriers – particularly those which affect some groups more than others – and taking steps to ensure that everyone can access our services.

In 2022, 46% of new dentists coming onto our register had trained and qualified outside of the UK. In addition, half of all new dental hygienists and dental therapists registered were not UK qualified either, with almost all of these being overseas dentists who had applied for registration as a dental hygienist or dental therapist. Taken together with the significant changes in legislation since the UK’s departure from the EU, international registration continues to be one of our key areas of focus. EDI is central to this work, ensuring that the service we offer is fair and consistent to all.  


  • Undertake work to identify and remove barriers to engaging with our registration processes for both UK and overseas qualified professionals
  • Identify barriers or challenges for those involved in FtP processes and offer or signpost to suitable support and mitigation strategies
  • Provide patients and the public with information and assistance to enhance their understanding of how to raise concerns with the appropriate organisation promptly and effectively
  • Improve the accessibility of our communications with our registrants, patients and other relevant stakeholders.

What we are doing to achieve our priorities 

Improvements to the registration process

The GDC is constantly working to improve the processes for registration, particularly where there may be a differential impact on particular groups. 

In 2023 we embarked on a journey to modernise our registration process for overseas-qualified dental professionals, enabled by changes to our international registration legislation. The aim of this work is to make international registration fair and efficient and, above all, keep patient protection at its core. 

We understand that international registration raises very clear equality issues, particularly for refugees, women with childcare commitments and people with disabilities. Eventual decisions on particular changes may have different impacts on applicants from different countries or applying through different routes. Understanding and addressing those effects will be key considerations as we move forward with the design of our framework for international registration in the long term.

Making the complaints resolution process more accessible

The complaints system in dentistry is complex, with several organisations with different roles and remits (including regulators) involved with complaint handling. It is not always obvious to patients and the public how or to whom to complain, and some people will experience additional challenges or have additional support needs when raising concerns or making complaints. 

To help make the dental complaints system more accessible to everyone, we have simplified our website content to better explain the options and the process. The revised content explains the steps a complainant should go through to raise a complaint, including providing information to direct them to the right organisation. In developing this content, we are seeking to remove unnecessary barriers to raising a complaint by making sure the information we provide is clear, concise and easy to follow (including linking to easy-to-read documents) and by referring to advocacy bodies that can help people who may need extra support. 

Understanding who is raising concerns 

It is important for the GDC to understand who is raising concerns with us about dental professionals. Currently, we know and record whether concerns are raised by patients, employers, other dental professionals or other sources (such as the police), but we know nothing about the EDI characteristics of this group. 

Having a better understanding of the characteristics of those who contact the GDC to raise concerns will help us to understand and identify barriers to raising concerns or contacting us, and to begin to explore potential reasons for over- or under-representation of certain groups. This improved understanding may also provide a fuller picture of any overrepresentation of registrants with certain protected characteristics in FtP.

To do this, we are starting to capture EDI data for those who raise concerns with us and for witnesses in FtP cases. Providing this information will of course be voluntary, in line with best practice on data collection, but we nevertheless hope to gain a better picture of who is interacting with the GDC. We will begin to analyse this data and will publish results in 2025.  

Ensuring we adopt the right format for our hearings  

Since the pandemic, our FtP hearings have largely been held remotely rather than in-person at our offices. We have recently consulted on proposals to make all our FtP hearings remote by default going forward, while maintaining provisions for holding them in person where necessary. There are several EDI considerations regarding a move to remote by default, which we explored through the consultation, and which will be considered further as part of the analysis. 

A key consideration is accessibility. On one hand, participants with accessibility concerns may benefit from the convenience of remote hearings, particularly when travel to central London may present significant challenges. However, there are a number of other considerations – such as digital inclusion and the accessibility of the software used – and whether certain groups, particularly those with protected characteristics, are more likely to be adversely impacted. 

The outcome of this consultation will be available in summer 2024, with any subsequent changes to FtP hearings taking place in 2025.