Government reforms of GDC are too slow and going in wrong direction, says Dental Protection

15 February 2021
2 min read

Responding to the government white paper published last week, Dental Protection has called on the government to get on with reforming the General Dental Council’s fitness to practise processes and shelve plans that could see dental professionals under some form of ‘super regulator’.

In recent years the government has consulted on reducing the nine health professional regulators down to three or four, a move which many expected would lead to the abolition of the GDC in its current form and dental professionals being regulated alongside many other health professions by the same body.

The white paper says the government plans to remove the need for a bill to be introduced to parliament each time it wants to abolish a regulator. Instead, under the proposals, the government would be able to abolish the GDC or other regulators – as well as add or remove whole professions from regulation – by using secondary legislation, which can be passed more quickly and with less scrutiny by parliament.

The white paper also states that other proposals will be taken forward separately that aim to ensure regulators’ processes are proportionate and not overly bureaucratic. Details of these wider proposals are not however, set out in the paper.

Dental Protection has urged the government to focus on introducing reforms that would improve how dental professionals are regulated, rather than an amalgamation exercise which could result in a lack of expertise, familiarity and understanding of the distinct professions, in those responsible for the regulation.

Dental Protection’s dental director, Raj Rattan, said, “The GDC continues to be governed by the 1984 Dentists Act which, despite several amendments over the years, is outdated. The act requires the GDC to conduct some of its operations in ways that are outmoded and not always in the best interest of patients or professionals.

“Dental Protection has long argued for reforms to the act to enable the regulator to streamline its processes to improve efficiency, reduce the number of investigations into less serious allegations, and to require the GDC to conclude investigations in a timely manner.

“There is now a real opportunity to improve the GDC’s fitness to practise function and ensure the regulator follows a fair process in which patients, dentists and the governments of the UK can have confidence.

“The creation of a ‘super regulator’ or a similar large-scale amalgamation could result in an organisation that does not have expertise and understanding of the distinct professions. There is a strong case for the GDC to remain the regulator for dentists and dental care professionals. All registrants carry responsibility for the care and treatment of patients within a clinical setting and, consequently, require a regulator with experience, expertise and a contextual understanding of everyday dental practice.”