THE GDC has published a three-year "road map" that sets out how it intends to improve its performance and efficiency as a regulator.
Patients, Professionals, Partners and Performance details how the GDC will work with partners, the profession and patients on a programme of reforms to make the system of dental regulation in the UK more effective.
The report acknowledges a significant image problem among UK dental care professionals, citing a 2013 registrant survey which found that that while 67 per cent were "in some way" confident in the GDC’s ability to regulate dentists and DCPs effectively, just over a quarter (26 per cent) were not confident.
The report states: "We recognise that the GDC has much to do to rebuild trust in us and the regulatory system for which we are responsible. The challenge we have faced has arisen, in significant part, from the difficulties of resourcing an organisation with sufficient speed to handle an unprecedented increase in fitness to practise complaints between 2010 and 2014.
"We are determined to do everything we can do to improve our performance in fitness to practise, and to enhance the quality of our engagement with the public we serve and the profession we support."
The report is critical of the existing legislative framework for professional regulation – now nearly 35 years old – which it claims prevents the GDC from achieving many of the innovations and efficiencies that "characterise modern, risk-based, cost-effective regulation". It pledges to continue working with the dental profession, other regulators and the government to push for legislative changes which will result in professional regulation that effectively protects patients but is not overly burdensome to the health professions.
The report identifies key work to be undertaken at the GDC between 2016 and 2019, including:
- improving information so patients can make better decisions about their care
- getting to a point where appropriate complaints are dealt with locally or directing patients to the most appropriate body
- ensuring dental professionals are equipped with the right skills and training to practise safely and helping dental professionals to meet the standards
- reducing the time it takes for complaints to be investigated by introducing case examiners to help streamline the process
- working with partners in the NHS and other regulators to ensure there is support for dental professionals who are experiencing stress and signpost them to places where they can receive support
- working with partners to improve dental regulation
- improving transparency so that the public, patients, professionals and partners are confident in our approach.
GDC Chair William Moyes, said: "This is a pivotal moment in our history as we move ahead with an exciting programme which will contribute to the significant improvements in dental regulation."
Chief executive of MDDUS, Chris Kenny, commenting on the report, said: "MDDUS welcomes the GDC’s commitment to a faster, more streamlined and transparent service. We will work with the GDC to help them deliver a regulatory system that better serves patients and dentists.
"Complaints continue to rise and we agree that wider reform is needed to enable the regulator to improve efficiency, transparency and decision making in their fitness to practise process. The challenge now is to turn aspiration into early action in order for the plan to be credible and effective.
"MDDUS has seen a significant increase in the number of members subject to investigation by the GDC in recent years (up 37 per cent in 2014), the vast majority of which lead to no action. The often unjustified threat of regulatory action can destroy careers and reputations. We support steps that will make the process less stressful for dentists and reduce the number resulting in a final hearing.
"We continue to engage robustly with the GDC on behalf of our members."