Whistleblowing incident prompts major GDC overhaul

SIGNIFICANT changes have been made to the leadership, processes and organisational culture at the General Dental Council following an investigation into their handling of a whistleblowing incident.

The regulator made the announcement as it published an action plan containing a number of additional improvements to be made this year.

The changes are in response to a report by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) which highlighted a number of failings in the way the GDC responded to a whistleblowing incident in 2013.

Among the findings in the PSA report was that “various objectionable practices were in operation during 2013 and in the months following the publication of the 2013 Investigation Report”. It went on to note that “the GDC did not treat the whistleblower in accordance with its own whistleblowing policy”, revealing the person’s identity unnecessarily. There were delays in investigating their complaints and ultimately an inappropriate person was chosen to head the investigation, which was described as “not thorough”.

In a letter to PSA chair George Jenkins announcing the action plan, GDC chair William Moyes said the organisation had been on a “significant journey of improvement over the past three years”, but acknowledged “there is further work to do”.

Mr Moyes said the GDC’s fitness to practise function has been “overhauled” and processes improved, with case examiners set to be introduced later this year. Improvements have also been made to staff training, as well as to whistleblowing and complaints handling policies.

The senior management team, he said, has been “fundamentally reshaped to help drive forward improvements”. It was announced in November 2015 that GDC chief executive Evlynne Gilvarry would be stepping down in January 2016 after five years in the post.

Mr Moyes went on to say the GDC was “fully committed to becoming a high-performing, efficient regulator", and that the practices criticised in the PSA report have been “eradicated”. He stressed the importance of “fostering a more open culture that encourages individuals to come forward to raise concerns.”

The action plan sets out timescales for a large number of changes to be implemented, including:

  • A review of the whistleblowing policy, taking into account PSA recommendations
  • Changes to the recruitment policy and pay structures of investigating committee staff, focusing on skills and evidence rather than qualifications.
  • Improved staff training and regular performance reviews
  • Improvements to the governance structure and a review of governance function.

The GDC also plans to share the lessons it has learned with the wider professional regulation community.

Read about the GDC action plan here

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