GDC submit response to the Department of Health’s consultation on the proposed Statutory Duty of Candour in Northern Ireland

27 August, 2021

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Department of Health’s consultation on the proposed Statutory Duty of Candour in Northern Ireland and have now submitted our response. We support the statutory organisational duty of candour, but suggest that the individual duty should remain a professional one embedded in the standards for the dental team.

The Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-Related Deaths (IHRD), which sits at the heart of these proposals, suggests that the system of professional regulation, at that time, embodied only an ethical duty for openness, rather than a clear legal duty. As the UK-statutory regulator of the dental team, our standards lay out the professional responsibilities for raising concerns, listening to patients, and openness and honesty. We also provide guidance for dental professionals on the duty of candour. These standards and the guidance are already in effect in Northern Ireland, and the other nations of the UK, and we will consider concerns about dental professionals who may not meet the expectations set out in our standards.

There is a careful balance to be struck around powers for enforcement, and the promotion of open learning cultures. The weight of criminal sanction can have a suppressing effect on openness and therefore lead to the perverse outcome of under-reporting. We therefore suggest the proposal for the individual duty which does not include a criminal sanction is most likely to support an open learning culture.

Trust underpins the relationship between healthcare professionals and their patients. Indeed, if patients have information concealed from them, it can intensify the harm caused. Patients should expect their dental professionals to be candid when things go wrong.  

For our full response to the consultation visit our Consultations and responses page.