COVID-19: GDC guidance for dental professionals
These are difficult and worrying times for us all as we navigate the many challenges we face and try to develop good solutions to problems as they emerge.
The absence of immediate certainty understandably will lead to frustration and concern and, for
our part, we are working to minimise this wherever we can.
In the absence of immediate answers, please know that we are being guided by two main principles. When developing our approach, we are seeking to:
- minimise the regulatory burden on dental professionals wherever possible
- maximise flexibility for dental professionals to manage their professional activities in response to the challenges of COVID-19.
Your professional judgement and our approach to regulation
Expert advice on the clinical aspects of COVID-19 will continue to come from the health authorities of the four nations and we will continue to signpost to this guidance as and when it is updated. But that guidance will inevitably not cover every potential scenario, and therefore, dental professionals will need to continue exercising their professional judgement and weigh the risks in any given situation. They will also need to continue to assess whether they are trained, competent and indemnified to carry out the activity in question.
However, in the recent joint statement from the healthcare regulators we said that we understand that in highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures to care for patients and that should concerns be raised, relevant environmental and human factors would be taken into account.
Continuing professional development
We recognise that access to CPD has been seriously hindered this year by the COVID-19 control measures. If you have been affected, please be reassured that you will not be penalised. During this year’s Annual Renewal you will be asked to make your annual or end of cycle CPD statement in the normal way, even if you have not met the requirements, but we will be flexible in our response and will take account of the exceptional circumstances you have faced.
If you’re a dental care professional (DCP) and have the opportunity to comply with the minimum hourly requirements for CPD, before the 31 July deadline, we would like to encourage you to take it. This is because of the important role CPD plays in patient safety and maintaining public confidence in the dental professions. However, we understand that this may not be possible.
You can find out how many CPD hours you need to do this year by logging into your eGDC account. If you are short of completed CPD hours, and have an opportunity to be compliant by the deadline, please take it. However, you won’t be penalised if this isn’t going to be possible and please remember, there is already some flexibility built into the Enhanced CPD scheme:
- if you did 10 hours of CPD last year, you could make a zero-hours statement this year, or
- if you think you could make-up your shortfall with a very short extension, you could apply for a grace period in writing before the 31 July.
Visit the Enhanced CPD scheme pages for more information on CPD rules. Or if you have questions particular to your circumstances, or you don’t think you will be able to make a CPD statement this year, please get in touch by emailing [email protected].
Information for students
Thousands of students will have been due to complete their professional training over the coming months, before registering with the GDC.
Teaching and assessments have been severely disrupted, but we have been working with education providers to ensure that as many students as possible can still have a smooth transition into practice.
We, and they, have prepared a joint statement setting out our shared approach which we recommend all students and recent graduates read.
Our approach to fitness to practise
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt in every aspect of society. Fitness to practise is no exception to this and, in line with government guidelines on COVID-19, almost all hearings have now been postponed or adjourned.
With regards to new issues, people will continue to have legitimate concerns and it’s important that they are able to raise them with us. If they do, we are under a legal duty to investigate.
We will continue to record and make a risk assessment of new fitness to practise concerns, as well as continuing to progress new and existing cases as far as we can.
The Overseas Registration Exam (ORE)
As a result of the safety restrictions brought in as part of the COVID-19 response, it was necessary to suspend Parts 1 and 2 of the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) earlier this year. Our aim is to resume the ORE as soon as it is safe and viable to do so.
The law requires the GDC to appoint a dental authority to run the ORE on its behalf. Through ongoing work and discussions with our exam providers, it is now clear that due to the continuing COVID-19 restrictions, it will not be practicable to run any sittings of the exams in 2020.
Candidates who booked a place on the cancelled April exams may wish to request a refund and return to the candidate list in the interim.
We also know that there are some candidates who have either now exceeded the five-year time limit between Part 1 and Part 2, or shortly will. We will be in contact once the future ORE schedule is confirmed.
In the meantime, regular discussions with our exam providers continue, and we will provide further information as soon as it is available.
Remote consulting and prescribing
Where patients cannot go to a dental surgery, you may be asked to provide advice remotely and to work with patients to defer the need for active treatment through the use of pain control and antimicrobial treatment.
The 10 high-level principles of remote consultation and prescribing, developed jointly with the other healthcare regulators, continue to apply and in the current crisis the key requirement is to make an appropriate clinical risk assessment.
Remote prescribing protocol can be found in NHS England's COVID-19 guidance and standard operating procedure.