A view from the GDC’s Chair: shared goals with our stakeholders

01 December, 2021 by Lord Toby Harris

As I am almost at the end of my second month as Chair of the GDC’s Council, I think it is probably time to retire my self-description as the ‘newly appointed’ GDC Chair.

However, being newly appointed is helpful when meeting stakeholders for the first time as we both come fresh to the conversation, although briefed about each other’s priorities and perceptions.

I’ve found it very useful to meet both the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this month. The GDC shares with them an approach that puts patients at the centre of our work – in the case of the GDC this means that our objective is to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services.

These conversations have reinforced my view that professional regulation is – and should be seen as – a benefit to professionals themselves. The public expects professions to be regulated and to have recourse if things go wrong. This builds respect in the professions we regulate and gives the dental team confidence that the things that can bring a profession into disrepute are dealt with.

Proportionate regulation is key, of course, and we continue to press for legislative reform to free us from some of the very prescriptive rules which limit our ability to improve how we operate.

Innovation and boundaries of regulation

Dentistry and healthcare continue to develop and change, and our regulatory approach needs to be able to respond to new models of care, technological advances and changes in the way people access dentistry (for example, the growth in remote working).

One of the things we’re discussing in the public GDC Council meeting this week is a draft framework we can use to analyse issues at the boundaries of regulation. It’s important to rapidly develop proportionate regulatory interventions by balancing risks against benefits so that the public remain protected without innovation being stifled, and therefore this discussion is very timely.

One of our roles is to ensure the quality of dental education

I know that difficulties in gaining clinical experience has been a challenge for many dentistry students in the past year, and education providers, dental schools, postgraduate deaneries and students themselves worked hard to maintain the quality of education and training for all dental professionals.

One of the GDC’s responsibilities is to ensure that new graduates fulfil the required learning outcomes in order to register with us, and this year we developed a risk-based quality assurance process to ensure that new graduates were of the expected standard.

I’m therefore looking forward to meeting with representatives from the Dental Schools Council and COPDEND (the UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors) in December and discussing our shared goals in ensuring the quality of dental education for next year’s graduates.

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