GDC battles negative perceptions among dental professionals

OVER half of dental professionals and other stakeholders expressed negative perceptions of the General Dental Council (GDC) in research commissioned by the regulator.

Results indicate that overall perceptions of the GDC were more negative (58 per cent) than positive (21 per cent) in 2020. Views of the GDC amongst the dental team worsened from when the same questions were posed in 2018 – although there was a slight improvement amongst dental students and other stakeholders.

The research also found that understanding of the remit of the GDC varied, with lower awareness of its role in setting standards in education (49 per cent) than other core GDC functions, such as maintaining the register (88 per cent), investigating concerns about impaired fitness to practise (80 per cent) and setting and promoting professional standards (75 per cent).

"The findings don’t make comfortable reading", said Stefan Czerniawski executive director, strategy, for the GDC.

"It’s important to understand what’s behind that so that we can identify what needs to change. The findings tell us that there are three broad groups of issues affecting perceptions, each of which needs a different kind of response. The first is where the system of regulation does not operate as well as it should, where not surprisingly most of the critical focus is on fitness to practise. The second is where GDC’s decisions and actions and the way these are communicated by us are seen as not reflecting the issues and concerns of dental professionals. And the third is that there are very real misunderstandings about GDC’s role and what we are here to do.

"Sitting behind that is a fourth issue, which is that perceptions can be formed very indirectly. Only one in five of the respondents to our survey said that direct contact with the GDC was one of the main factors in shaping their perceptions, while half name the experience of colleagues or friends as an important factor."

GDC Chief Executive and Registrar, Ian Brack, said: "I am accountable for performance of the GDC and very clear about what has not gone well and what we’re doing about it. Without regulatory reform, our ability to significantly improve the fitness to practise process is largely limited to making marginal operational improvements and applying more resource to an inefficient system. Nevertheless, I am determined that we will make the improvements we can."

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