Consultation on the GDC’s powers to investigate fitness to practise issues.
The Department of Health has issued a consultation on the powers of the GDC when investigating fitness to practise complaints. The GDC regulates dentists and dental care professionals in the UK and they investigate any complaints indicative that a dental professional has failed to meet the appropriate standards of conduct and performance.
The aim of the proposed changes is to make the GDC more effective and efficient, resulting in quicker and more consistent resolutions to complaints, whilst still continuing to protect the public.
The key amendments sought will enable the GDC to:
- delegate decision making from the Investigating Committee to Case Examiners;
- give the Investigating Committee and Case Examiners the power to agree undertakings with a registrant;
- enable a registrant to be referred to an Interim Orders Committee at any stage of the fitness to practise process.
The current system requires a Panel of 3 to sit as the Investigating Committee. The proposals are that 2 case examiners, who will be officers of the GDC, will meet to decide on the appropriate action to be taken. This is hoped to speed up the decision making process and to facilitate a more consistent approach.
Undertakings are binding agreements between registrants and a regulator, which restrict the registrant’s practice in some agreed way. For example, a dentist may undertake (promise) not to see patients without a supervisor being present. If a registrant breaches an undertaking, that will be a separate allegation of misconduct, which would be a serious fitness to practise issue.
Undertakings have been used by other regulators for some time and can lead to more proportionate responses. They are quicker and therefore are a cheaper solution then referring a registrant to a full fitness to practise panel unnecessarily. This can significantly reduce the stress and anxiety for the dental professional, compared with having to wait for a full fitness to practise hearing.
GDC Interim Orders Committee
The current system allows a Registrar or Investigating Committee to refer a registrant to an Interim Orders Committee only at specific times, namely when making a decision to refer the registrant to the Investigating Committee or Practice Committee respectively.
The proposed change will allow a Registrar, Case Examiners or the Investigating Committee to refer a registrant to an Interim Orders Committee at any time. It is proposed that this will provide a higher level of patient protection.
The consultation closes on 21st November 2014 and any interested party is encouraged to send their views to the Department of Health by email or online.