- 1. What does the GDC mean by ‘fitness to practise‘?
- 2. What type of GDC fitness to practise concerns will the GDC investigate?
- 3. How long can a GDC fitness to practise investigation take?
- GDC fitness to practise case studies
- Ask us a question
- How can we help you with GDC fitness to practise investigations?
- Further Reading
1. What does the GDC mean by ‘fitness to practise‘?
The General Dental Council (GDC) have published their code of conduct online, referred to as ‘Standards of the Dental Team’. You can read the code in more detail here.
The code sets out the GDC’s standards for the conduct, performance and ethics for dental professionals and is referred to in GDC fitness to practise investigations. The code is split into sections dealing with:
- The core ethical principles of dental practice;
- What patients can expect from members of the dental team;
- What registrants must do to ensure patients’ expectations are met;
- How registrants should meet the standards.
The GDC recognise that the concept of fitness to practise goes further than a dentist’s clinical practice. Dentists are respected members of the community and have a professional responsibility to demonstrate that they justify this level of trust. The GDC will therefore, when they consider it necessary, investigate a dentist’s conduct outside of their professional life, where they consider that this demonstrates a lack of integrity or an unwillingness to practise ethically.
Any allegation of dishonesty will always be taken seriously by the GDC, as probity and honesty are regarded as fundamental requirements for all dentists and dental professionals.
2. What type of GDC fitness to practise concerns will the GDC investigate?
Each GDC fitness to practise investigation is unique, however the GDC will investigate concerns that fall into the following categories, although this list is by no means exhaustive:
- A criminal conviction/caution;
- Working without indemnity insurance;
- Working out of scope;
- Allegations of dishonesty;
- Substance misuse.
Whatever the nature of the allegation, where a dentist is facing a GDC fitness to practise investigation, it is essential to obtain legal advice and representation as early as possible. Through early intervention, it may be possible for us to persuade the GDC that there is no case for you to answer. If this is not possible or practical in your situation, we will strive to limit the damage, by narrowing the allegations and/or laying the foundations for your strategic defence in a GDC fitness to practise hearing.
3. How long can a GDC fitness to practise investigation take?
The GDC aim to investigate a complaint, and if appropriate, refer the dentist to the GDC Investigating Committee, within 6 months of receipt of the initial complaint. If the Investigating Committee refer a dentist for a GDC fitness to practise hearing before one of their committees, that may take a further 9 months.
This is not an unusual time frame for a healthcare regulator, but our GDC defence lawyers appreciate the amount of stress and pressure that, having a fitness to practise investigation hanging over them for so long, causes dentists. Our GDC lawyers will work tirelessly to ensure that the GDC’s fitness to practise investigation is concluded as quickly as possible, whilst focusing on getting the right result.
GDC fitness to practise case studies
Below is a brief sample of the types of GDC fitness to practise cases where we have legally represented dentists, dental technicians and other dental care professionals with GDC related issues:
Case Study #1
We represented a dentist who had been practising for a number of years without professional indemnity insurance. The dentist also faced allegations of poor clinical performance relating to a patient. The dentist was at real risk of erasure, but we managed to present sufficient mitigation to avoid erasure, protecting the dentist’s right to continue to practise after a period of suspension.
Case Study #2
We provided a second opinion for a dentist facing a series of complaints from various patients, including poor clinical performance and ineffective handling of complaints.
Case Study #3
We provided legal advice on issues to a dental professional, who was seeking GDC registration from abroad.
Case Study #4
We assisted a dentist to declare a criminal conviction to the GDC. This resulted in a warning, but successfully avoided a full GDC fitness to practise hearing.
Case Study #5
Represented a dental technician at a GDC review hearing. The dental technician had previously faced allegations including that he had practised out of scope. The Panel were persuaded that his fitness to practise was no longer impaired, so his suspension was revoked and he was allowed to return to full unrestricted practice.
Ask us a question
Do you have another question relating to GDC fitness to practise that hasn’t been covered in our guide? Feel free to ask Richard Nelson LLP’s GDC fitness to practise solicitors and we’ll endeavour to get back in touch with you as soon as possible.
How can we help you with GDC fitness to practise investigations?
If you are facing a GDC fitness to practise investigation, our expert defence representation will significantly improve your prospects of obtaining the best possible outcome. Please contact our GDC Lawyers today for a free confidential telephone consultation.