Rule 4 observations - pilot

We are piloting changes to the Rule 4 stage of the fitness to practise process from the end of January 2020. The pilot will run for nine months, ending on 30 October 2020. These changes are being piloted in response to feedback from dental professionals and their representatives.

The Rule 4 stage allows for dental professionals to submit their comments or observations in response to the concern that has been raised. Dental professionals subject to investigations do not have to provide observations, but most do.

We are piloting these adjustments because we are sympathetic to the time pressures that dental professionals are under and understand that the current time limits can be challenging. However, as the regulator we also need to consider patient safety and the timely disposal of cases. Therefore, the changes are being piloted and will only be applied to selected cases.

1. The changes being introduced during this pilot period are:

  • To extend the Rule 4 time limit by 14 days for certain cases (see 2.1 to 2.3 below).
  • To disclose the clinical assessment that has been sought in advance of an investigation, prior to the full Rule 4 Bundled being made available (this change is being piloted in all clinical cases, but the GDC retains discretion).

2. For the 14-day extension to apply:

2.1 The case must fall into one of the following types of case category:

  • Single patient concern - which raises concerns about the clinical care and treatment provided by the dental professional. Single patient concern will be clinical in nature, but may also have some concerns about conduct.
  • Dental care professional (DCP) performance concern – concerns raised in relation to other professionals who are not dentists e.g. concerns regarding a DCP’s clinical ability e.g. dental nurse.
  • Maintenance of practice, equipment and materials - concerns raised about practice maintenance, this may include equipment in the practice, cross infection control, and out of date medicine. 

2.2 The dental professional must have no other fitness to practise matter being actively considered.

2.3 The dental professional or their representative must request the 14-day extension within seven days from when the Rule 4 notification letter is sent to them.

This pilot was proposed in a consultation on the Rule 4 process completed last year. The consultation and the outcome report can be found on the consultations and responses page

For further information or if you have a specific query relating to the Rule 4 pilot, please get in touch