Planning for reform of dental regulation in a period of uncertainty: GDC publishes its annual report for 2016

The regulator of dental professionals, the General Dental Council (GDC) today (Tuesday 11 July) publishes its Annual Report and Accounts for 2016.

The annual report gives details of achievements and activities in 2016 and the GDC’s ambitions for the coming years as it continues with the second year of a three-year roadmap and presses ahead with improvements to dental regulation set out in Shifting the balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation.

The report is published at a time of increasing challenges and uncertainty in the wider environment in which the GDC and other health professional regulators operate in is increasingly challenging and uncertain. The implications of the UK’s decision to exit the EU are still unfolding, while the health sector is working hard to deliver the best care to patients.

Demand is greater than ever and patients’ needs are becoming more complex. Questions regarding structural change are being asked across the UK, and dental professionals in England at least are also wrestling with imminent changes to the NHS contract.

It is in this context that the GDC is taking forward reform of dental regulation, rethinking its processes and moving resources “upstream” with the aim of preventing harm.

This work continues apace in 2017, with an end-to-end review of our entire fitness to practise process to drive further improvements, and an online tool for the “self-filtering” of complaints to ensure the most appropriate body is dealing with concerns about dental care.

William Moyes, Chair of the GDC Council, said: “In this period of political uncertainty, the GDC is planning for an improved model of dental regulation that is better for patients and fairer for dental professionals.

“The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the effect on a range of issues from workforce planning to language testing and how to deliver care to patients with complex, long-term conditions –  presents still unknown challenges for the delivery of dental care.

“This is at a time when all health professionals are trying to deliver care that is in patients’ best interests, to populations that are increasingly elderly with multiple, complex conditions.

“And the GDC has faced its own challenges. We improved significantly over the past few years –  new people, new processes, tighter controls and much more transparent and engaged with all our key stakeholders, who have generally welcomed the scale and pace of change and the direction in which the GDC has been taken. I look forward to working with these stakeholders to deliver our vision of improved dental regulation.”

Ian Brack, Chief Executive of the GDC, said: “Looking back, 2016 saw the GDC continue to improve its performance.

“These improvements have been reflected in the Professional Standards Authority’s review against the standards that they apply to the health professional regulators’ statutory functions, as we achieved 21 out of the 24 standards. This is a significant improvement on the review in 2015, although we recognise that there is still more work to be done.

“The vision we have set out in Shifting the Balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation involves focusing a greater proportion of resources ‘upstream’ to prevent harm, working in collaboration with patients, dental professionals and our partners and re-focusing fitness to practise.

“We will continue to work with the profession and our partners to improve patient and public safety and increase the public’s confidence in dental services.”

In 2016, the GDC introduced Case Examiners, who have the power to issue undertakings, meaning the GDC will be able to agree the steps that need to be taken to bring the dental professional’s practice up to the required standard without going to a full hearing, improving our ability to regulate in a proportionate way. This also achieves more efficient outcomes for patients.

By working with the NHS in England, the GDC also established an improved mechanism for dealing with patient concerns that cannot be appropriately dealt with using the GDC’s fitness to practise powers. NHS Concerns encourages more local resolution between the dental professional and the patient. Each year, the GDC receives hundreds of concerns that could be resolved locally, which we now seek to reroute to the local NHS, enabling them to be dealt with more appropriately.

In 2016, the GDC has also been working with the Chief Dental Officer in Scotland, and other key stakeholders, to create one process for handling complaints about dental professionals in Scotland.

Read the Annual Report and Accounts for 2016 here.

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