Remote or online fitness to practise hearings 

Our investigations and public hearings into serious concerns about dental professionals’ fitness to practise dentistry form a vital part of the public protection framework we operate across the UK. Maintaining this essential service during the coronavirus pandemic has meant holding most of our hearings remotely using online meeting technology.   

We will continue to hold hearings remotely, especially interim order and review hearings, where there are clear benefits in expediting proceedings. We seek agreement from all parties as early as possible on the appropriate format of the hearing.   

Where requests are made by any party for a hearing to be held in person, we will try to reach a consensus. Where one can’t be reached, or we have specific operational constraints, an independent committee will decide how the matter should be heard, in line with our decision making guidance.  

We are holding hearings at our London offices, and will continue to do this when it is clear that the evidence would be best heard in person, in part or in full, to ensure fairness to all parties involved. 

Our fitness to practise hearings are held in public. This principle has been maintained for remote hearings in the interest of transparency. However, we need to balance transparency with the need to ensure the smooth running of the hearing, so maximum attendance limits may apply.  

You should submit your request to attend a hearing in advance. 

Our experiences of remote or online hearings during the pandemic

There have been challenges involved in managing remote hearings, but these have been overcome as we have all grown more familiar with the process. Of course, what we are most interested in are the outcomes of our hearings. When comparing remotely held hearings with those held in person, we have found there is little difference in engagement, length of process, or outcome. 

We have also identified advantages to holding remote hearings, such as reduced travel, which we do not want to discount immediately, and while coronavirus restrictions are now being lifted, we continue to live with considerable public health risks and uncertainty.  

Many other regulators and courts are holding remote, online, or virtual hearings successfully. We are constantly learning from each other to ensure a good experience for all participants.

For those attending a remote or online hearing 

If you are due to take part in a hearing using online meeting technology, we will be in touch with you before it takes place to make sure you are comfortable using the system.  

We will do this by arranging a test call with you, normally the day before the hearing. You will be able to see how it all works, and we will provide you with any further help and guidance you might need. The test call is an opportunity to ask any questions about how the technology works and what to do if there are any issues on the day of the hearing.  

Our witness support officer can provide additional support if requested. 

Shortly before the hearing, a hearings support officer will send the meeting link to you so you can join when the time comes. We will assist you with any other individual support needs that you have told us about. Please tell us beforehand if you need to take frequent breaks so the chair can build the time into the proceedings. You can request a break at any time during the hearing if you need one.  

Once you have joined the hearing, you will be able to see and hear all of the other participants, and once your camera and microphone are on, they will be able to see and hear you. The chair of the committee will ask you to introduce yourself, and explain the format of the hearing to you.  

Taking part in a hearing remotely or in person can be stressful. We will work to minimise this as much as possible. Your full and active participation is extremely important. Committee members and other parties attending will be flexible and patient so you can participate effectively.  

Other things that will support your participation: 

  • Ensure you are in a room where you will not be disturbed. 
  • Have all of the relevant documents to hand during the hearing (try using a different device to the one you’re using for the online meeting, but we appreciate it is not an option for everyone).
  • Check your internet speed in advance, we recommend a minimum constant download speed of 8Mbps (Megabytes per second). You can check your download speed on the Which? website.
  • Let the chair of the committee know if you are unable to hear at any time during the hearing. 

What to do if your circumstances change

We recognise that circumstance can and do change, sometimes at short notice. If you find that you are unable to attend a hearing, even remotely, please get in touch with us as soon as possible, providing detailed reasons.  

The GDC, or the committee due to hear the case, will then consider the matter.  

If you are unwell, you should let us know as soon as you can. We will advise you of the next steps. If you feel unable to participate in the hearing on the day, either before or during the hearing, you must inform the committee. 

Your privacy and remote hearings

Any party can make a request for the hearing to be held in private, either in part or in full. This normally happens when the hearing is about someone’s health.  

The committee will consider these requests. Where the committee agrees, we will ensure that there is no access for members of the public to the remote hearing. 

Recordings of remote hearings are prohibited.