GDC Investigations

Richard Nelson LLP offers advice and representation for doctors undergoing a GDC investigation. The process can be long and challenging, which is why our specialist solicitors will work closely with you to help you understand the investigation and to get the best result from the process.

Dentists

What happens in a GDC Investigation?

A GDC investigation usually commences with the General Dental Council receiving negative information about a dentist or dental professional. Complaints arise from a variety of sources, including patients, other dental professionals, the police and the NHS.

At the outset of a GDC investigation, the complaint goes through the GDC’s initial screening process. The GDC makes an early decision regarding whether the complaint amounts to an allegation of impaired fitness to practise. If so, the GDC investigation will continue. The regulator will then further investigate the allegations and refer the registrant to the Case Examiners for a decision about the case.

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What sort of allegations will the GDC refer to the case examiner?

GDC investigations relate to a registrant’s fitness to practise, which may be impaired due to:

- misconduct;
- deficient professional performance;
- adverse physical or mental health; or
- a criminal conviction or caution.

It is important to remember that the GDC regulate the professional as a person and not just their clinical practice. GDC investigations, therefore, can relate to allegations concerning a dentist’s private life, even where the allegations are unrelated to a dentist’s clinical practice. The GDC investigations seek to protect the public and the reputation of the profession.

When should I respond to the allegations in a GDC investigation?

Once a GDC investigation has reached the stage where it is reviewed by the GDC’s Case Examiners, the GDC will formally notify the registrant and invite their written response to the allegations. A registrant is usually given 4 weeks to respond to the allegations.

When facing a GDC investigation, registrants should contact the MedicAssistanceScheme to obtain independent legal advice before submitting their own representations to the GDC. In our experience, representations prepared by registrants, rather than a lawyer, may adversely impact on the outcome of an investigation.

In any investigation, a tactical decision needs to be made relating to when is the best time to respond to the allegation in writing, what level of detail to go into and what further documentation to provide to the GDC. Our dental defence lawyers are experienced at dealing with GDC investigations and so can advise you about strategic decisions and prepare the representations on your behalf.

What decisions will the case examiners make?

In any GDC investigation, the decision made by the Case Examiners is a critical stage.

The Case Examiners will consider allegations and the evidence, to decide what should happen next. The Case Examiners have the following options

- to close the case and take no further action;
- to adjourn the case for further investigation;
- to issue a letter of advice to the registrant;
- to issue a warning letter (either published or unpublished) to the registrant;
- to refer the registrant to one of the GDC’s practice committees.

When a GDC investigation has reached the stage when the Case Examiners should decide whether to refer a registrant to one of the GDC’s practice committees. The Case Examiners apply a test of whether there is a realistic prospect of the facts, as alleged, being found proved. If so, whether there is a realistic prospect of a finding that the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

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Criminal proceedings and GDC investigations

Dentists and other dental professionals can sometimes find themselves the subject of a criminal investigation or proceedings. If this situation arises, it is essential for GDC registrants to obtain legal advice from lawyers with expertise in both criminal matters and, importantly, in GDC proceedings.

At the MedicAssistanceScheme, our lawyers have experience of robustly defending dentists and other dental professionals in criminal investigations and proceedings. Our lawyers understand the necessity of your GDC registration and the professional impact of a criminal conviction or caution. We will, therefore, be with you every step of the way through both the criminal and regulatory process.

Our team of expert solicitors have experience in defending a wide variety of criminal matters, including, but not limited to the following types of issues:

– Motoring offences;
– Assaults;
– Alcohol or drug-related offences;
– Fraud and other dishonesty offences.

We have an established network of other experts who we may need to involve in your case, including barristers and forensic accountants. We will ensure that your entire defence team works together to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Our expert solicitors can represent dentists and other dental professionals in the Police Station, the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown Court and beyond; mindful of the significance of the proceedings to the dental professional both personally and professionally.

When investigating a dental professional who also faces criminal proceedings, the GDC will usually wait for the outcome of those proceedings before concluding any of their own regulatory investigations.

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