GDC announces policy change to publication of IOC outcomes 

03 July 2024

The General Dental Council (GDC) has announced a change to what will be published following decisions by the Interim Orders Committee (IOC) after a review of its policy.  

The GDC acknowledged that its investigations can be intrusive and recognises that stress can be caused not just by the experience but also by the public availability of information while an investigation is ongoing.

From June 2, 2024, the Dental Professionals Hearings Service will no longer publish determinations made by the IOC. Instead, the outcome will be published on its website after a hearing or review has taken place, including any action taken to protect the public, patients, or dental professionals. Any restrictions on registration will continue to be added to the online register on the GDC’s website. 

The change is part of the GDC’s ongoing commitment to reduce the negative impacts of the fitness to practise process on dental professionals’ health and wellbeing.  

The IOC's role is to assess serious and immediate risks to public safety and confidence in the profession. It is made up of independent panellists who will make that assessment and can impose restrictions on a dental professional’s registration to protect the public while a fitness to practise investigation takes place. 

Theresa Thorp, executive director of regulation at the GDC, said, “By limiting publication to the IOC outcomes and any restrictions on a dental professional’s registration, we aim to maintain public safety and confidence while minimising negative effects on dental professionals while fitness to practise matters are investigated. This change in policy recognises that allegations are untested at an IOC hearing or review because the role of the IOC is to assess risk and not to determine the facts of a case.” 

All previously published IOC determinations have now been removed from the Dental Professionals Hearings Service website and replaced with the outcome of any hearing or review. Where no order is imposed by the IOC, the outcome will be published for one month and then removed. 

There may be instances where it is in the public interest or in the interests of the dental professional or other parties concerned for the registrar to apply discretion to this policy. The GDC expects these circumstances to be limited, and the need to apply discretion rare.  

George Wright, deputy director at Dental Protection, said, “This is a positive development and strikes the right balance between protecting the public, and ensuring the negative effects on dental professionals’ wellbeing and reputation are reduced while matters are under consideration.

“This, along with some other recent steps the GDC has taken to ensure communications to those facing an investigation are more compassionate, and close simple cases more swifty, are welcome. There is however still more to be done to reduce the number of dental professionals needlessly dragged through the fitness to practise process, and resolve all cases more quickly.

“The GDC also recently confirmed that it is working to build a framework to report the causes of death of dental professionals where there is an active fitness to practise case, guided by an evidence review and engaging with experts including the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group. A report covering the period 2019-2022, is due to be published in 2024.

“This report is long overdue, and it is important that the GDC keeps to this commitment. When it is eventually published, it will likely make for difficult reading, but it will provide some much-needed transparency and will expose the full extent of this issue.”