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The Body responsible for policing Regulators “The Professional Standards Authority” published its annual Performance Review Report for 2013/2014, on 27 June 2014. Within its findings The General Dental Council in came in for particular criticism on a number of fronts having been found to have failed to meet a total of eight (8) Standards of Good Regulation, six in its “Fitness to Practice” function and two in “Registration” function.

Within the “Fitness to Practice” function they were deemed to have failed to meet the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth standards from a possible ten: They failed to: (i) Ensure that their Fitness to Practice cases were progressed without delay. (ii) Have adequate processes for managing risk in Fitness to Practice case. (iii) Ensure they had provided good customer service to all parties in the Fitness to Practice process. (iv) Ensure that all Fitness to Practice decisions were well-reasoned, protect the public and maintain confidence in the regulated professions. (v) Ensure that all Fitness to Practice decisions were published and communicated to relevant stakeholders. (vi) Ensure that Fitness to Practice information was securely retained.

Within the “Registration” function they failed to meet the first and third standards, from a possible five. They failed to: (i) Place appropriate processes to consistently ensure that only those who met its standards were registered at all times. For example, a registrant was allowed to join the register despite having to re-sit their exams; registration continued whilst the registrant was under investigation for illegal practice and two applications were granted incorrectly without staff input. (ii) Did not ensure that they maintained accurate registers. Multiple errors were discovered due to human error, IT related and the movement of data between systems.

These failures are all the more important when read against the background from 2011 to the present date, as follows: The Secretary of State for Health requested an urgent investigation in May 2011 after the former Chair of the GDC raised a number of issues following his retirement. The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) reported back in February 2013 highlighting deficiencies in the support and operation of the GDC Investigating Committee, which impacted on its efficiency and effectiveness. Following publication of this report,  further new evidence then came to light concerning actual poor practice in the Investigating Committee itself, compromising the independence of its’ decision making process'.. A further Independent Review was commissioned which reported back in December 2013. Although no evidence was found that independence was compromised, the Review identified a number of serious concerns about the Investigating Committee processes and practices, including the following:

  1. Private discussions between Investigating Committee secretaries and Chairs about individual cases prior to Investigating Committee meetings.
  2. Preparation of draft decisions or parts, in advance of Investigating Committee meetings.
  3. Substantial changes made by GDC staff to Investigating Committee decisions following meetings.

Although the GDC accepted all the recommendations of the Review owing to other earlier concerns raised about the GDC’s management of their own disclosure, the PSA commenced yet a further investigation in April 2014 which is still on-going and to be reported upon.

These concerns are serious in promoting confidence in both the Public and Registrants (Dentists; Clinical Dental Technicians; Dental Hygienists; Dental Nurses; Dental therapists; Orthodontic therapists and Dental technicians) alike, since it is imperative that Regulators are beyond reproach and capable of maintaining the highest professional standards expected and relied upon.