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Quality assurance of specialty education

21 November, 2023

In 2022-23 we completed the first cycle of quality assurance of specialty education and training. We have listened to feedback along the way and revised the process to incorporate this. Following feedback from the deaneries and Royal Colleges, the quality assurance process was amended to include a remote inspection meeting, where regional and national offices and Royal College examination providers were given an opportunity to support documentary evidence with oral evidence that allowed the EQA team and EAs to better understand how this training and assessment was being delivered and therefore make more reliable decisions in relation to how the Standards for Specialty Education were being met. All reports are now published on the Dental Specialty training page.

This first round of quality assurance of specialty training will serve as a baseline for the ongoing monitoring. This year we will undertake a wholescale review of quality assurance of specialty training which will be informed from learnings of the first round of feedback from stakeholders.

The tables below show the regional offices/nations and Royal Colleges that were reviewed in the academic year, and how they performed against the Standards for Specialty Education. Overall more standards were being met against the previous academic year, and there is evidence to show that this is as a result of the contemporaneous improvements being made to the process as the team progressed, and the commitment made to improving communication and better understanding between the GDC and its stakeholders.

There were common themes seen across all regional/national training offices. The specialty training model is work based, and specialty trainees are already qualified, registered with the GDC and practicing dentistry independently. Some regional office/nations did not have adequate mechanisms in place to inform patients that they were being treated by a trainee. Language and the GDCs expectations around this were often discussed before resolution was identified. This is an area we will look into in greater detail in the future, which might include the revision of the standards for specialty education. It was also noted that there was a duplication in the data being submitted by Health Education England training offices, so steps were taken to centralise a suite of common documentary evidence shared across the offices to reduce duplicity and improve the process.

 The use of external examiners by the Royal Colleges remains an area that requires a consistent focus for development, and the GDC will continue to work with the Royal Colleges to find a solution. 

Regional Offices Quality Assured 2022-2023

Regional officeStandards met/part met/unmet
Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Academy

18 Standards met

Two part met (2,6)

HEE Yorkshire and HumberAll 20 Standards met
HEE North West

16 Standards met

Four part met (2,3,7,11)

HEE Midlands and EastAll 20 Standards met
HEE North East and CumbriaAll 20 Standards met
HEE South West Thames Valley Wessex

17 Standards met

Three part met (10,13,14)

Royal Colleges Quality Assured 2022-2023

Royal CollegeStandards met/part met/unmet
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons GlasgowThree Standards met
Four Standards part met (1,3,5,8)
One Standard unmet (7)
Royal College of PathologistsTwo Standards met
Six Standards part met (1,2,3,5,7,8)
RCS EnglandFour Standards met
Four Standards part met (2,3,7,8)
RCS EdinburghFour Standards met
Four Standards part met (2,3,4,7)

The data shows that deaneries are performing much more positively against the standards than the Royal Colleges who are responsible for providing the final examinations. One Royal College was unable to provide assurance that they fully met any of the required standards and have been given specific and detailed actions they must complete within specified period to do so. Since the initial findings, the EQA lead has worked with the College to improve the first inspection findings. Additionally, this work has found that both the colleges and the training commissioners are not always able to show robust mapping to the current learning outcomes, and this is an area for further review going forwards.

Quality Assurance of the Royal Colleges was at times very complicated and presented a different set of challenges. All Royal Colleges demonstrated a positive approach in their willingness to work with the GDC as the process was developed and tested, however there remain concerns across all colleges that they have been unable to provide assurance across all eight requirements, with particular concerns in Requirements 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7. There have been a number of actions and recommendations for improvements, and these include:

  • Clear curricula mapping to the GDCs Learning Outcomes
  • The use of external examiners and development of defined roles and responsibilities
  • The demonstration of robust standard setting across all assessments and regular evaluation of assessments

The progress against all actions set to the Royal Colleges will be closely monitored through the next academic year.