Regulatory reform: more progress needed, and soon

16 June, 2021

I very much welcome the consultation exercise the Government has run on legislative reform for the healthcare professional regulators. We have in turn consulted extensively with a wide range of organisations and individuals across dentistry to share our thinking and to hear their views. All of that – and Council’s own thinking – has been distilled into our formal response to the consultation.

We have sought, for some years, a programme of reform which would unlock the prescriptive and restrictive legislation under which the GDC currently operates. This limits our ability to respond to changes in dental practice, to operate an effective and efficient regulatory system and, most importantly, to ensure public protection. That in turn means that our regulatory system is less efficient than it should be, which ultimately means registrants are paying more than they need to for outdated regulation. 

Our response to the consultation welcomes many of the proposals, particularly the greater flexibility which will mean we will be much more prepared to respond to the changes that will inevitably arise as we move out of the pandemic and dentistry recovers and modernises. 

However, as Chair of Council, my biggest concern is the further delay to the reforms as a result of the Government’s decision to review the number of healthcare professional regulators. The resulting delay is a great disappointment.  

The Government has linked the need for this review to results of the Busting Bureaucracy exercise, noting that a number of stakeholders reported that having nine separate healthcare regulators is confusing. 

We do not hear confusion from our stakeholders with regard to the number of professional regulators. We already have a single regulator with a single consistent approach for dentistry, covering all the regulated dental professions. What we do hear from stakeholders is the need for more progress in reform, faster.

The review of regulators in turn is frankly too slow and will not deliver better regulation and better protection of the public as fast as we, and they, deserve. We need rapid pace and a clear timetable for this. 

While we wait, more than 115,000 members of the dental team remain frustrated by our inability to respond to changes in dental practice and make further changes to how we operate. And the public is deprived of a healthcare regulator able to operate an effective and efficient regulatory system. 

We very strongly urge the Government to reconsider its approach and give regulatory reform the priority it needs.

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