A view from the Chair: Improving fitness to practise, exploring standards and welcoming new Council members

04 October, 2023 by Lord Toby Harris

Rules for international registration and a new pilot for fitness to practise

The world of dentistry doesn’t stand still, and nor do we as regulator. Our 12-week consultation on proposals for new rules to be in place for the assessment of qualifications of dental professionals who have qualified outside the UK closed in September. We are using the feedback and evidence to propose the new rules that need to be place before the current rules cease to have effect in March next year. The steps we can now take are only the preliminary ones on a journey toward a more innovative, efficient and effective system in future – which is reliant on a complex combination of legislative, contractual and operational changes.

We’ve also started the ‘initial inquiries’ pilot to find out whether early provision of specific information about single patient clinical practice complaints can lead to a quicker decision. Our own analysis and experience tells us that these types of cases are much less likely to progress beyond the assessment stage. Decreasing the time for a dental professional to receive a decision and outcome would reduce the impact of the investigation. We want to work with the profession to resolve cases that do not pose a serious risk to public safety or confidence as quickly as possible. 

The GDC’s student engagement programme ramped up this month, where we present to all first and fifth year BSc/BDS students, foundation/vocational dentists, and in recent years, the wider dental team. Last year we ran 42 sessions, engaging with around 3,000 people. These sessions are designed to increase awareness and understanding of the GDC and explain the importance of professionalism in a regulated profession.

Exploring the best way to provide standards and guidance

The initial conversations with external stakeholders and dental professionals about new ways to provide standards and guidance have been really valuable. We want to find the best model of guidance and to understand the pace needed for any change and the information and support required by the professions before we make a change.

It’s an important exercise. It’s essential that standards and guidance continue to reflect professional practice and what patients expect, that they are useful and are provided in a way that enables professionals to use their professional judgement to deliver the right care for patients in every circumstance.

You can join an online webinar to hear more about our thinking and share your thoughts on what an effective model for guidance and standards should do.

Council’s reflections and discussions

The GDC’s Council acts as a collective, sharing thinking and recommendations on important matters about the GDC’s strategy, direction and performance. One of the most pressing of these is about our budget and the subsequent Annual Retention Fee or ARF. In September’s Council we reviewed and agreed the GDC’s reserves policy and that we would review this again in Q1 2024 and explore some benchmarking with other regulators. This is appropriate but not straightforward, as funding models vary enormously.

Council also reviewed a draft of the budget for 2024 to 2026, assuring ourselves that it reflects the GDC’s Corporate Strategy and priorities. Further work will be done before Council make a final decision on the budget, in October’s Council meeting. 

Also in September, we said goodbye to two members of Council, Jeyanthi John and Caroline Logan, as they complete their second term of office. In the two years since I become Chair, I’ve found enormous value in their comments and contribution. This reflects the fact that each member brings different experience to Council, which needs to be valued and made welcome. 

From 1 October we welcome Serbjit Kaur MBE and Timea Milovecz as registrant members, who both bring a wealth of different experiences that will be invaluable to Council.

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