GDC publishes an update on transparency and trust

27 March 2024

The General Dental Council (GDC) has provided an update on work underway to address concerns about the level of detail that is put into the public domain regarding serious concerns considered by an Interim Orders Committee (IOC) and to report data about the cause of death of registrants with an active fitness to practise (FtP) case. The regulator also plans to improve the FtP process to reduce the impact it can have on participants. 

The GDC recognises that FtP is a stressful and difficult process. The regulator has taken various steps to minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety and ensure that the small number of dental professionals involved in an investigation are supported and that their mental health and wellbeing is a priority.    


In 2023, following an inquest, a coroner raised concerns with the GDC about the level of detail put into the public domain regarding allegations being considered by an IOC.  


The GDC has expressed great sadness about learning of the death of a dentist whose case was under investigation and sent their deepest sympathy and thoughts to their family.   


The regulator recognised the concerns raised by the coroner, and at the time, work was underway to review the policy on the publication of IOC outcomes. The aim of the review is to ensure the correct balance of the public interest in open justice and safety against the interests of the dental professional, particularly when assessing untested allegations. The role of the IOC is to assess immediate and serious risks to public safety or confidence and to act when necessary. It does not have a role in making findings of fact. 


The GDC is working to build a framework to report the causes of death of dental professionals where there is an active FtP case, guided by an evidence review and engagement with experts, including the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group. The regulator explains the work underway to bring together a report that covers the period 2019 to 2022, to be published in 2024.   


Stefan Czerniawski, executive director of strategy, said, “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of a dentist whilst they were under investigation. We are committed to reflecting and learning lessons where we can and are developing a process to undertake a serious incident review when we become aware that someone has died while subject to a fitness to practise investigation.   


“We want to build and maintain trust between us and the dental professionals we regulate. Minimising stress experienced in the fitness to practise process is one way to do that and we have a number of improvements underway. Reporting the causes of death of registrants will also improve transparency. However, balancing transparency with the public interest, our responsibilities as a regulator and the impact on dental professionals requires consideration of different perspectives and views in order to ensure constructive discussion about what are often difficult and sensitive issues.”