Review of the GDC's role in regulating the dental specialties

In 2014, the General Dental Council undertook a review of its role as regulator of the dental specialities, to ensure that it was and will continue to operate as an effective and modern regulator with a primary focus on protecting patients and the public.

The GDC established the specialist lists in the late 1990s. Today, we hold specialist lists in 13 areas of dentistry. This means that dentists who have met the standards for practising in a specialty can be entered into the relevant, publicly available list. The scope of our policy review was limited to the regulation of the dental specialties, i.e. not to the role of specialists themselves or the treatments they provide. The review considered the fundamental issue of whether the GDC should regulate the specialties at all, and posed three more key questions:

  • Does regulation of the specialties bring any benefits (potential and/or actual) in terms of patient and public protection?
  • Is regulation of the specialties proportionate to the risks posed by those dentists providing more complex treatments?
  • Are the specialist lists the appropriate mechanism for helping patients to make more informed choices about care not seen as falling within the remit of the general dental practitioner?

A full account of the review and its conclusions is available. 

The Council concluded that the GDC should continue to regulate the specialties, but not make significant policy changes. The Council agreed, however, to minor regulation and administration improvements, namely:

  • rewriting and redesigning the specialist list content on the GDC website to ensure that it is in plain English and patient-friendly, and that searching the specialist lists is straightforward
  • publishing online information for general dental practitioners about the use of the specialist lists
  • producing guidance on applying to enter the specialist lists via mediated, or assessed, entry.

This work is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Standards for Specialty Education

In parallel to this work, Council has agreed to publish the new Standards for Specialty Training (449.3 KB, PDF)  a document setting out the GDC's standards for specialty training. Following publication, the GDC will work with providers in 2015 to raise awareness of the new standards and ensure that they are prepared to make any changes to training curricula necessary to meet our requirements. Later in the year, the GDC will work with volunteer stakeholders to pilot a process, based upon moderated self-assessment, for scrutinising key data and information from providers. We will be looking for a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, including information about specialty trainees’ progression rate through programmes and exit examinations, that demonstrates compliance with the Standards. We will also provide feedback to providers based upon the outcomes of evidence analysis.

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