We are today launching a pilot that will test a change to the initial stages of our fitness to practise processes to improve proportionality and timeliness. Process changes are being made to the way investigations are carried out in certain cases, to help us resolve issues faster, while continuing to effectively maintain public safety and confidence in the dental profession.
We want to ensure matters that do not pose a risk to public safety or confidence are concluded as quickly as possible. The change in process being piloted will help ensure we are fully informed of all relevant facts as early as possible, ensuring that only issues amounting to a fitness to practise concern are fully investigated.
The pilot will run for six months starting on 4 September. It will be applied initially to single patient clinical practice cases, where the dental professional involved has no previous fitness to practise concerns, but may be expanded during the pilot.
Our current legislative framework effectively requires all matters relating to the clinical practice of a dental professional to be referred from the initial assessment stage to assessment for an investigation. Considerable effort and resources are then allocated to gathering information, whether or not it is required, to reach a decision.
The change being piloted is designed to limit the information gathered to what is specifically required in each case. That will normally be the patient’s clinical records in these types of cases. The aim is to reduce the time it takes to conclude low level issues. The process will rely on being able to access records quickly, so the cooperation of dental professionals and their representatives is needed if the pilot is to succeed.
The new pilot reflects our desire to make improvements to the fitness to practise process where we can, ahead of any potential regulatory reform. It is also hoped that improved timeliness and proportionality will reduce the impact of fitness to practise investigations on the health and wellbeing of participants.
John Cullinane, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, said:
“We know our investigations can be complex and take a long time and that they can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those involved. We also know that lengthy investigations, about what can be perceived as minor issues, can lead to feelings of mistrust and frustration in the fitness to practise process.
“We will continue to try and improve our processes within the current legislation, and we hope that by working with others, we can make some significant improvements in timeliness without affecting the outcomes of these investigations. Our own analysis tells us that cases that would fall into the scope of this pilot do not normally progress beyond our assessment stage, so we hope this small change will make a big difference.”
Find out more about the initial inquiries pilot.