How we look into concerns made against dental professionals

The GDC has a legal duty to investigate concerns raised that a registrant’s fitness to practise may be impaired. This means that we look into concerns about a registrant’s clinical ability, health, conduct or behaviour. Our processes are designed to protect patients and be fair to all parties. We do this by ensuring we fully consider every concern we receive, and decide to either close the case or refer it to the next stage in the process. Please note that we do not mediate civil disputes, or order refunds/compensation; only the courts can do that. If we do decide to close a matter we may refer the concerns; or signpost enquirers to other appropriate organisations better placed to help.

There's more information about other organisations who can help with concerns; or about the standards of care we expect dental professionals to deliver on our website.

If you are still unsure, please contact us.

You can find out more information by downloading our PDF, How to report a dental professional to us.

Four stage concerns procedures

The four stages of our concerns procedures are listed below. At each stage in the process, we will tell the parties involved in writing what decisions have been made about the concern(s) raised. If any of the parties involved are not happy with the outcome, please  let us know. We will try to explain the reasons for the decision and provide possible alternatives that can be explored. In certain circumstances we may be able to review a decision.

Stage 1 - Initial Assessment Team

The Initial Assessent Team will assess the concern(s) to see if we are the right organisation to deal with it.

If we are, we will:

  • Assess the information and allocate a case to casework for consideration.
  • Alternatively, we will not open a case and we will tell those involved why we are not doing so.

Stage 2 - Casework

Casework will look into the concern to see whether it should proceed to the next stage.

This stage involves:

  • Notifying the registrant.
  • Collecting the relevant information.
  • In clinical cases, getting patient records and clinical advice.
  • In health cases, getting medical/psychological reports.
  • In criminal cases, getting certificates of conviction and or police reports.
  • Adecision will then be made to refer the case on to stage 3, with summary allegations for more detailed consideration by the Case Examiners.

Alternatively, the case will be closed without further action.

No decision is made at this stage about whether an allegation is true.

The question we have to ask is, "Does this information need to be considered in more depth?"

We aim to make a decision within four months from the date that the concern is received. Should a case proceed to the Case Examiners, a decision will be made within six months from the date a concern was received.

Stage 3 - Case Examiners

The Case examiners consider the allegation(s), any comments from the dental professional, and any further comments from the person who raised the concern(s). All parties receive a complete copy of the paperwork to be considered (other than material containing sensitive health information).

The Case Examiners will then decide whether to refer the allegation to the Dental Professionals Hearings Service for a full public inquiry or, alternatively, agree a set of undertakings with the registrant.

If the Case Examiners decide not to refer the registrant to the Dental Professionals Hearings Service, they can send the registrant a letter of advice or warning or take no further action.

Interim Orders Committee (IOC) - At any stage during consideration of the concerns received, the Registrar or Case Examiners may decide that it is necessary to refer the registrant to the IOC. The IOC can consider whether to impose interim conditions or suspension until full consideration of the concern has been completed. They can also decide to take no action and let the case continue in the normal way.

Stage 4 - Practice Committees

This final stage is a full public inquiry before an independent Committee of the Dental Professionals Hearings Service.

The Dental Professionals Hearings Service is the adjudication function of the General Dental Council that is separate and independent from GDC’s investigation and prosecution functions. The hearings are conducted in public and managed by independent committees comprising of dental professionals and lay people.

The Committee hears evidence from all parties and makes a decision. If any allegations are proved, the Committee then decides if the registrant's ability to practice as a dental professional is affected and what action they should take. The Committee can take a number of steps. The most serious is to take the dental professional's name off the Register. This means they are 'struck off' and cannot practice. The dental professional has the right of appeal.

For more information about this final hearings stage, please visit the Dental Professionals Hearings Service website.