A view from the Chair: dental care professionals are renewing their registration, and we provide information about fitness to practise trends and what is reasonable in terms of clinical records

03 July, 2024 by Lord Toby Harris

More than 75,000 dental care professionals (DCPs) are renewing their registration in June and July, so this is an important time for many people in the dental team. We have been working with professional associations to help everyone to understand what they need to do to renew their registration as smoothly as possible. It was really positive to work with the Dental Professionals Alliance on their blog post helping DCPs to navigate the requirements for continuing professional development (CPD). They put this together in response to queries that the professional associations often receive from their members, so I have no doubt that it will help many in the dental team as they renew their registration.

We are also encouraging DCPs to provide voluntary working pattern data, as we did with dentists in their annual renewal. This will help to provide more detailed information about whether DCPs are providing private or NHS treatment, working full or part-time, and in clinical or non-clinical roles, amongst other things. I am encouraged that around two thirds of DCPs who have already completed their annual renewal have also completed the working pattern survey. I would ask all dental care professionals to undertake the very short survey to provide a fuller picture of the dental workforce in the UK.

Understanding the perceptions of dental professionals early in their careers

One of the ways the GDC engages with dental students and trainees before they join the register is through an annual student engagement programme, providing in-person and virtual sessions to explain what regulation means to professionals. We recently completed the last session of this academic year and are soon to start again for the next academic year. We will evaluate feedback to continually improve this engagement.

We recently published research into the views and experiences of early career dental professionals, with important insights that we will use to plan future activities. Although we regulate the whole dental team, the findings point to varying perceptions of the GDC among different dental professions. Most early career dental professionals hold either a positive (44%) or neutral (30%) perception of the GDC, with dental care professionals viewing the GDC more favourably than dentists.

It is important that the regulatory system is transparent and effective for everyone in the dental team and there is more to do to achieve that. The reason this is important is that, especially for dental professionals as they start their career, being confident in their own practice underpins patients’ confidence in the care they receive.

Transparency in fitness to practise

As part of our efforts to make the regulatory system more transparent, we recently shared information about trends in fitness to practise. We acknowledge the work done right across the dental sector on good complaint handling, with the emphasis firmly on local resolution and helping people to find the right place for their feedback or complaint.

We also provided more information about what is professional, reasonable and in the interests of patients with regard to record keeping, explaining what complete and accurate records means and how our clinical advisers use them to provide consistent advice in clinical cases.

I have long held the belief that regulation is in the interests of both professionals and patients. I hope that providing factual information about the regulatory system helps dispel myths and improves understanding of what we do and why we do it for the benefit of dental professionals, patients and the public.

The government’s priorities for dentistry

Along with the rest of the UK, I am keen to see the outcome of this week’s general election. I am also minded that the timetable for clarity on the government’s priorities regarding dentistry is currently not known. Dentistry has had a higher political profile compared to recent previous general elections and one can assume this might continue. Either way, the GDC will continue to deliver the regulatory framework and respond to the government’s priorities where they affect this.

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