THE introduction of case examiners in dental fitness to practise procedures should lead to reduced stress for some dentists and dental care professionals (DCPs) subject to GDC complaints.
This is the intention behind planned reforms by the regulator now out for consultation.
Case examiners will be empowered to agree undertakings with some dentists and DCPs where this is proportionate and in the public interest, thus avoiding full practice committee hearings. Such undertakings might involve an agreement to help a registrant meet the required standards through additional training, allowing the person to practise under supervision of another registered dental professional or by allowing them to work if they meet certain conditions.
Applicable cases will continue to be heard in front of one of the independent practice committees, which decide on a person's fitness to practise dentistry and any appropriate sanction. But the GDC estimates that reducing the number of such cases could generate estimated savings of £1.8 million per year.
Commenting on the plans, Director of Fitness to Practise at the General Dental Council Jonathan Green, (GDC) said: "The consultation is a further step to modernise the way we run our fitness to practise caseload.
"When someone is being investigated by the GDC, we recognise this places the person under considerable stress and anxiety. While we absolutely have a duty to protect patients by taking swift action against those who should not be practising dentistry, we must make the entire process as efficient, seamless and timely as possible by providing the necessary support.
"Introducing case examiners will help to further streamline the FtP process. We have made some significant changes to the way we handle cases from the initial complaint to the final outcome.
"Introducing case examiners with a power to agree undertakings with practitioners, means that we will see more complaints dealt with without the need for a practice committee hearing. This should lead to significant reduction in stress for practitioners, as well as ensuring, for all concerned, that suitable cases are resolved earlier and with less expense."
It is expected GDC case examiners will start making decisions in late summer 2016.
Click here to access full details of the plans. The consultation runs until 14 March.