GDC responds to PSA Review

General Dental Council focused on patient-first regulation

A major change programme is already delivering real improvements in the protection of dental patients, the General Dental Council (GDC) said today, following the publication of the annual review of performance by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). The plan that the GDC has developed is designed to maintain the high level of confidence in the profession amongst patients.

Today’s PSA report confirms that in the areas of guidance and standards, education and training, and registration the GDC is performing well. However, we also recognise that the PSA has identified a number of areas within the Fitness to Practise (FtP) category where reform is required. The PSA has reported on data collected between September 2013 and September 2014, which confirms what was already known, namely that in this period the GDC was faced with an increased number of complaints and a significant pressure on resources. The transformation programme we have put in place is already yielding results in this area and we are confident that it will continue to deliver improved performance.

The GDC is currently preparing its response to the PSA’s review of its own methodology. As today’s report highlights, providing commentary on data that can be as much as 18 months out of date, is clearly not helpful in scrutinising regulators’ performance and helping them to protect patients. The GDC welcomes reforms that will enable the PSA to define what good, risk-based regulation looks like.

GDC Chief Executive and Registrar, Evlynne Gilvarry, said:

“The GDC has set out a clear vision that puts the patient at the heart of its work. The  PSA report recognises much of the excellent work being done by the GDC on a daily  basis. We are not complacent however, and are fully focussed on the need to see  through our current reforms and deliver improvements in the area of Fitness to  Practise.

Whilst some of this can be delivered through the measures we have put in place, we  still need the government to bring about a wholesale redesign of the blueprint under  which we operate. We are committed to fulfilling our mandate to protect  patients  and are keen to use the additional time before the 2016/17 Parliamentary session to work with the Department of Health, other regulators, commissioners and  patient  groups to develop fresh legislation.”

Notes on four areas examined by the PSA report

Guidance and Standards
Following a two year programme of research, consultation and analysis, we revised our key professional standards document in 2013, publishing the Standards for the Dental Team in September 2013. Compared with the guidance it replaced, the revised Standards place a greater focus on communication skills and personal behaviour.

Education and Training
The GDC quality-assures education and training so that dentists and specialists provide the highest quality and standards of patient care, and that all individuals have the relevant language skills appropriate to the clinical setting.

We have enhanced our registration procedures to guard against fraudulent entry to the register and to ensure that all applicants, wherever they qualified, have the necessary requirements to practice dentistry safely. In this area, we met four out of five standards, an improvement from the previous year. We have a robust plan in place to improve the processes and controls of our register and have communicated this to the PSA.

Fitness to Practise
The GDC accepts that it has challenges in the area of Fitness to Practise. We have taken a number of steps to address this issue, including appointing a new Director to run the team, who has undertaken a fundamental review of the whole Fitness to Practise process. Our most recent data shows that we are making progress in all stages of the FtP process:

1. At the end of Q1 2015, 87 cases were in the initial triage stage of our FtP process and 56 of these were dealt with within our 10 day KPI. This compares with 340 cases at the same period in 2014, of which only 56 cases were within our KPI.
2. At the beginning of October 2014, the average number of assessments completed each month by our Casework managers was 45 assessments per month, per team. At the end of March 2015 this number had increased to 65 assessments per team, per month. The number of teams had reduced from 6 to 4 as part of a rationalisation of resources.
3. At the end of Q1 2015, the median time taken from receipt of initial complaint to final hearing determination decreased from 100 weeks to 93 weeks.
4. At the end of Q1 2015, the median time from final Investigating Committee decision to final hearings decision decreased from 46 weeks to 39 weeks.
5. At the end of Q1 2015, our data showed that the Investigating Committee had had its most productive March in the last three years, with 80% of listed cases securing an outcome.
6. In 2014, we heard 194 initial Conduct Committee hearings compared to 133 in 2013. We have made arrangements to hold 375 hearings in 2015; an increase of 93%.