A view from the Chair: international registration takes a step forward and understanding of provisional registration starts to grow

04 April, 2024 by Lord Toby Harris

International registration is a significant priority for the GDC, and, in the past month, we have been able to take a major step forward with new legislation, rules and application processing fees in place for overseas-qualified dentists who want to sit the Overseas Registration Examination (ORE).

The GDC’s Council decided to hold examination fees at the current levels until the end of this year, under transitional arrangements which end on 31 December 2024, around the time that current ORE contracts end.

In addition to that, we have started early market engagement with potential suppliers with a view to making future examinations scalable to meet demand and delivered in more innovative ways in future. We have been able to create this new market for providers since last year’s legislation changes which removed constraints around finances and who can deliver the ORE.

Engaging stakeholders to deliver provisional registration

Work continues to engage stakeholders and explore the policy questions that arise from the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) proposals to introduce legislation that creates a new provisional registration status. The government’s intention is that this will provide a new route for overseas-qualified dentists whose qualifications are not currently automatically recognised by GDC to join the register and practise in the UK faster.

We are clear that we will not compromise on standards for registration. The first encounter between a provisionally registered dental professional and a patient is a very important moment. It must be underpinned by an agreed framework that takes account of supervision, assessment and clinical environments.

The GDC will take the lead on developing that framework, but its delivery will be for others across the four nations. Collaboration is absolutely essential, and I am pleased that members of the Dental Leadership Network responded positively when asked if they or their organisations would be involved in designing or delivering the systems.

We will continue to share our thinking as it develops and urge all stakeholders with an interest to respond to the department’s consultation by 16 May.

Understanding and supporting the workforce

I am also pleased that we have been able to release the first set of workforce pattern data gathered when dentists renewed their registration at the end of December. This is an initiative that I have personally championed and it is encouraging that so many registrants responded to the survey. I hope that it is already proving to be useful for workforce planners, employers, education providers and health services across the UK. I know that more detailed data is to be released shortly, giving information about where in the UK dentists are practising, and how.

We will also soon be inviting dental care professionals to provide data about their working pattern, also on a voluntary basis, when they renew their registration in summer. Over time, this will build into a rich picture that provides a better understanding of the workforce than ever before.

It is also important to support the workforce in other ways, including the very few who experience a fitness to practise (FtP) investigation. We want to be transparent about the regulatory processes involved and continue to make changes to reduce the stress and anxiety that they can cause. We are exploring the additional practical support that would help everyone who participates in these regulatory processes and make sure our staff are equipped to recognise and act on the signs of stress in an individual. We are also developing a process to undertake a serious incident review when we find out that a dental professional has died while subject to an FtP investigation, and we will, in line with the GMC’s approach, report the cause of death of dental professionals where there is an active FtP case.

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