General Dental Council – a struggling regulator?
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has recently published its annual review of performance of the General Dental Council for the period 2017/2018.
The PSA assess performance of the GDC against the Standards of Good Regulation, which cover the core functions of:
- Setting and promoting guidance and standards for the profession;
- Setting standards for and quality assuring the provision of education and training;
- Maintaining a register of professionals; and
- Taking action where a professional’s fitness to practise may be impaired.
The PSA’s review concluded that the GDC had met most of the Standards, but had failed to reach two out of the 10 Standards set for Fitness to Practise.
In summary, the PSA concluded that the GDC’s investigations were taking longer than the previous year. The annual median time between receipt of a complaint and a final hearing increased by nine weeks. An audit showed that in one-third of cases reviewed there were several concerns noted as avoidable if the GDC had been more proactive in case progression decisions. The GDC stated there had been staffing shortages and a high turnover of staff during this period. There had also been a focus on closing old files during this period, which could have affected the average time to conclude cases during this period.
Another interesting finding is that there has been an increase in the number of application to the High Court to extend interim orders. An indication that the time taken to complete investigations is taking longer.
In a small number of cases reviewed, the PSA had concerns about the adequacy of the reasons given for a panel’s decision. It is understood that the PSA provided the GDC with learning points in relation to specific cases and these have been embraced by the GDC.
The GDC’s data breaches increased from the previous year, with five serious breaches reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
It will be interesting to see if the GDC’s performance in relation to Fitness to Practise improves in the next annual review. However, those dental professionals who are subject to such investigations will feel the effect of the timeliness of investigations and it is important that the GDC continues to improve its systems and processes.
The full review can be found here.