The GDC is changing the way dental professionals are supported in England. The changes will affect those with conditions imposed on their practice and those who have agreed to undertakings, as a result of a fitness to practise investigation. John Cullinane, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, explains.
When a dental professional’s fitness to practise has been found to be impaired or poses an immediate risk, sanctions or restrictions can be imposed on their practice. Sanctions, such as undertakings agreed with case examiners, or conditions imposed by practice committees, are part of the regulatory system we operate and are used to ensure the public are protected while providing professionals with an opportunity to further develop their skills, knowledge and practice.
Conditions imposed on practice or undertaking agreements are applied in cases where there are public protection concerns, or where public confidence in the profession has been undermined. They normally include remediation or development requirements to be completed within a set timeframe.
Dental professionals working in England, who have had conditions imposed or agreed to undertakings, have, until now, been referred to one of the Health Education England (HEE) deaneries and allocated an adviser to support them with their additional development needs. We refer around four professionals a month to HEE. Development support is provided at a cost of around £850 (an initial assessment and planning meeting, plus four additional meetings) with the costs funded by the dental professional concerned.
This process is about to change. HEE has written to inform us that it will not be taking new referrals for support to dental professionals from 30 September, as a result of a recent review of postgraduate services. We’re now putting in place new development support pathway for dental professionals in England, which will take effect from 1 October 2021. Existing arrangements will continue in all other parts of the UK.
Dental professionals will now be in control of finding and selecting their own development adviser, subject to minimum requirements and final approval from the GDC. They will be asked to work with their development adviser on a Personal Professional Development Plan, which will be reviewed and reported on regularly. Dental professionals will continue to fund development support. Fees charged or daily rates will be a matter to be agreed between individuals.
We have worked with stakeholders, including professional representative bodies and defence organisations, on revising and updating the supporting documentation for dental professionals and advisers to ensure the process is clear and understood by all. We have also been working with others to identify avenues for support. Our updated guidance provides signposting to a number of organisations that will be able to help professionals to identify and select a development adviser who is right for them and their circumstances. The pack now includes:
- Development Adviser - person specification
- Information for dental professionals who are subject to conditions or have agreed undertakings
- Personal Professional Development Plan template
- Development Adviser Report template
We will be keeping the process and supporting documents under review for the next six months, and would like to encourage all stakeholders and dental professionals to raise any issues with us as soon as they arise. I’d also like to thank those who have worked with us to make these important updates.
Our aim is to give flexibility and the appropriate support to ensure that professionals are able to return to practise as soon as they can, having completed their development requirements.
If you have feedback or questions on the changes, please email [email protected].