A view from the GDC’s Chair: the first 30 days

02 November, 2021 by Lord Toby Harris

I’ll start by saying that I was delighted to join the GDC just over a month ago, and everything I’ve done and experienced since then has reinforced this. 

I arrived just as the GDC Council was making financial decisions about our budget and the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) for 2022. The headline news was that the ARF will be retained at the same level for 2022. Given the national economic situation, I believe this was a good outcome. 

It’s clear that there remains significant uncertainty in the dental sector and economy, and the GDC has to ensure delivery of our statutory purpose of patient safety and public confidence. 

I know that it’s been, and continues to be, a very difficult period for many dental teams as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GDC introduced a scheme earlier this year where dental professionals who pay their own fee could do this by Direct Debit, to spread the cost. Almost 10% of dental care professionals selected this option when their renewal ended in May this year, and around 16% of dentists selected the option for 2022 ahead of their Annual Renewal later this year.  

Meeting stakeholders 

I have already had a number of very useful meetings with stakeholders from across the professions including Sara Hurley (CDO for England), the British Dental Association (BDA), British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN), and Society of British Dental Nurses (SBDN).

These discussions are helpful to extend my understanding of the different issues in the sector and across the professions. They have reinforced my view that professional regulation is a benefit to professionals themselves. It protects patients from bad practice and, by addressing fitness to practise concerns and ensuring standards of education and practice, underpins the reputation of the profession as a whole. My view is that professional regulation is a privilege rather than a burden and understanding the perspectives of others is very helpful in this. 

I was also pleased to join the College of General Dentistry at their formal launch. It was excellent to see that the College puts patients at the heart of what they do, and will support every member of the dental team, especially as these are beliefs shared by the GDC too.

Looking ahead 

I know that professionalism is the cornerstone of patient safety and public confidence, but it can also be a difficult thing to describe in a way that everyone – patients and professionals – recognises.

The GDC provides Standards for the dental team, which describes conduct, performance and ethics as well as patient expectations. In recent months we’ve worked with researchers, patients and dental professionals to understand what we all mean by professionalism. This has developed into principles and we want to explore how these could support dental professionals in using their judgement to interpret situations in practice and to make the best decision according to the circumstances.

We’re going to be asking dental teams to share their examples of professionalism in action, to make it easier for everyone to recognise and describe it in a way that supports dental professionals and ensures patient safety and public confidence. I’m very interested in how this work develops and looking forward to seeing the examples of professionalism and how these can support the dental team.

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