The Dental Professionals Hearing Service – the dedicated hearings function of the General Dental Council (GDC) – launched June 21, 2022. While hearings already take place before a committee of three independent panellists, the regulator has made this move to further highlight hearings’ independence from its fitness to practise investigation and prosecution functions.
As part of the new service, a dedicated website now provides information including the different types of hearing, details of future and past hearings, and a summary of what dental professionals and witnesses can expect when attending a hearing.
The legislation the GDC operates under prevents the creation of an entirely independent hearings function and as such the new service remains legally part of, and accountable to, the GDC. The new dedicated hearings service, however, illustrates the regulator’s commitment to making improvements wherever it can while it waits for regulatory reform.
Lord Toby Harris, GDC chair said, “The independence of the hearing from any investigative process is a fundamental tenet of justice, but we know this separation at the GDC isn’t always understood by those going through the system. By making this change we are aiming to highlight this independence and thereby promote confidence in the fairness of the system.”
John Cullinane, GDC executive director, fitness to practise said, “This is one of several important changes we are making in relation to how fitness to practise and hearings work. While we are limited in how far we can go before our outdated legislation is reformed, wherever possible we are focussed on making changes that will improve the experience of everyone involved. We believe this administrative separation will help people to better-understand how the system works.”
The GDC is keen to provide reassurance that the creation of the new service will cause no disruption to any hearings that are already scheduled.