A big part of my role is to join-up conversations across dental healthcare in Scotland. This helps the GDC to understand the views and experiences of patients, dental professionals, and other key stakeholders, including the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. We use these insights to inform how we deliver our role as regulator of the whole dental team in the four nations of the UK.
It has, therefore, been a pleasure to work with the office of the Chief Dental Officer in the Scottish Government, and with colleagues at Healthcare Improvement Scotland to ensure that a section on dental services was included in the latest Citizens’ Panel survey.
This is a great example of working with partners to help us gain an insight into the views of patients and the public.
Insight from patients and the public
The Citizens’ Panel is a large, demographically representative group of Scottish citizens which helps to assess public preferences and opinions on health and social care issues.
The findings of the latest survey provide valuable information about access to dental services in Scotland. They also show that 62% of respondents would not know how to raise a complaint about a dental professional if they needed to.
Local resolution of complaints
The GDC has a statutory role to protect patient safety and ensure that the public can have confidence in the dental professions who work across the whole of the UK.
We support the local resolution of complaints and always advise patients to raise concerns with their dental practice in the first instance. In the large majority of cases, complaints are best resolved between the patient and the dental professional within the local practice.
Every practice must have a complaints policy which should be clearly displayed for the patient to see without having to ask for it, (GDC Standards Principle 5). Supporting this practice-based approach, GDC was pleased to partner with the Scottish Government, and NHS Scotland, with the support of the BDA, to introduce a low-level concerns policy . This ensures that less serious matters that are sometimes raised with the GDC are forwarded to local NHS Scotland health boards and practices for resolution. This policy has been in place for over a year and has been widely welcomed by NHS Scotland, the Scottish Government and organisations representing dental professionals.
Evidence based policy
We are committed to ensure that we develop policies on the basis of robust evidence. For example, in 2020 we commissioned the first of two phases of independent research on the impact of the COVID pandemic on dental professionals, and on patients and the public. In December 2020, our Council reviewed this research and other insights into the impact of COVID and agreed that our Corporate Strategy should be supplemented to account for the effects of the pandemic and to highlight how GDC is adapting to the emerging context of dental care and public protection.
A second phase of research into the effects of the pandemic on dental professionals and patients and the public is to be published in Spring 2022.
We will reflect on the wider findings in the Citizens’ Panel survey alongside our growing body of research; and will continue to value the experiences and opinions of dental professionals, and patients and the public, as we develop evidence-based policy which seeks to keep pace with changing times and is of relevance across the UK.