Latest updates from the GDC - March 2022

View from the GDC’s Chair: good discussions and progress on international registration 

In his monthly blog post, the GDC’s Chair talks about meeting the Oral Health Foundation, Dental Technologists Association, British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy and MDDUS, to understand their perspectives on the areas we have in common. He also welcomes the DHSC’s plans to amend the legislation governing routes to registration for dental professionals with qualifications gained outside the UK (see below). The GDC’s Council also met to bring together their collective thinking on our next Corporate Strategy, ahead of the public consultation later this year.

DHSC consults on changes to international registration legislation 

Proposals to amend the legislation governing the registration of those who qualify outside of the UK have now been released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). We have worked with DHSC on the reforms to ensure the future regulatory framework is effective and protects patients.

We welcome the proposed changes as they provide a workable and flexible framework for the registration of dental professionals across the UK for those who qualify abroad. Stefan Czerniawski explains the consultation proposals for international registration in more detail on our website, including wider reforms to the international recognition of professional qualifications.

We encourage all those with an interest to review the consultation and to submit their views to the DHSC before the 6 May deadline.  

Full re-start of the Overseas Registration Exam announced 

Following its suspension in early 2020 due to COVID-19, we were pleased last week to announce the re-starting of the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE), which provides a route to registration in the UK for dentists with overseas qualifications.

Because part of the exam takes place in a clinical setting, COVID-19 restrictions over and above those in place for broader society have prevented the ORE from re-starting until recently. The announcement last week however marks an important milestone in the recovery of international routes to registration.

Dental therapists supporting patients with additional needs

UK dental teams work together as skilled professionals, in a variety of settings, to provide dental services and oral healthcare to patients who can have complex needs or other vulnerabilities.

Monica and Jyoti are both dental therapists who work with patients with additional needs. In their first blog post of a series they’ve prepared for us, they share what their role entails and what it’s like working as part of a team in a community setting.

Fitness to practise: building capacity, ensuring fairness and improving timeliness 

Our investigations into serious concerns are a vital part of the public protection framework we operate, but our performance is often hampered by restrictive legislation. The time taken to complete a case is an issue for us, and we are doing what we can to ensure we are making the most of the time available to us within our legislative constraints.

We have recently published updated Preliminary Meeting Guidance for practice committees, following a public consultation in 2021. The changes ensure preliminary meetings (held ahead of a substantive hearing) can be used as an effective case management tool, and that we can continue to hold hearings remotely, because we have a clear process for decision-makers to agree the format of the hearing where parties cannot reach a consensus.  

Further, from 4 April we will be listing some hearings differently. Hearings that are not attended by dental professionals and completed ‘on paper’ will be allocated a week within which the hearing will be held, as opposed to a specific date. This will allow us to utilise any time available in that week, while ensuring parties are kept informed.

In an online post, John Cullinane, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, provides further details on how we are building capacity, ensuring fairness and improving timeliness in fitness to practise.

The importance of engagement in fitness to practise cases 

We have published new research into how the concept of seriousness is defined and applied by healthcare regulators in their fitness to practise function, alongside research partner the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The findings indicate that while there are some fundamental differences in how and when seriousness is considered by regulators, there are also similarities and consistencies in how the concept is generally understood and used.

Our research shows that the registrant’s level of engagement is an important factor in determining the seriousness of a case and the eventual outcome.

Although the vast majority of dental professionals will never be involved in a fitness to practise investigation, we advise anyone who finds themselves the subject of a concern to be fully engaged and responsive during the process. Those who do engage with their regulator, typically see less severe outcomes than those who do not.

Your views on our ‘Supporting the dental team’ guide 

We would like to get your thoughts and feedback to help us improve Supporting the dental team – a guide for managers and employers, first published in 2021. We are particularly keen to hear from those who manage, contract or employ dental professionals, including those who are not registered, but who are part of the dental team. Please submit your views using our online survey by 2 April.

The survey will take you no more than 10 minutes to complete, and you will not be asked for any personal information. We will be using the results to evaluate and ensure this online resource better supports the dental team. 

Equality data: thank you for providing your information  

Last year we asked dental professionals to complete or update their equality data when they next logged into their eGDC account. Many thousands of our registrants provided their information, vastly improving the quality and size of the dataset we now hold. 

We would like to thank all those who took the time to do this, as it marks an important step in progressing our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

Healthcare workforces support in Scotland 

The Workforce Specialist Service offers confidential mental health assessment and treatment to regulated health and social care professionals and is available to the whole dental team in Scotland.

In addition, the National Wellbeing Hub offers a broad range of advice and digital resources to help staff with issues such as stress, anxiety, low mood, insomnia and resilience. The Hub website includes details of the National Wellbeing Helpline, which offers a compassionate listening service.