Dental Leadership Network focuses on the system from patients’ and the public’s perspective

Now an established forum after four events, the Dental Leadership Network brought together leaders from across dentistry to discuss the dental system, as seen from the perspective of patients and the public.

The primary goal of the Dental Leadership Network is to bring dental leaders together to share information and build relationships, improve understanding of everyone’s remit and encourage collaboration to resolve shared challenges.

The event was opened by Joanne Rewcastle, GDC Associate Director, Communications and Engagement, who shared feedback about the Network’s objectives and suggestions for future priorities and topics.

This was followed by a keynote presentation by Jacob Lant, Chief Executive of National Voices, who gave a cautionary tale about NHS dentistry from 2014 to today and the positive opportunities for progress and change.

Rachel Lopata, Chief Executive of Community Research, spoke about the latest research from the GDC into patients’ and the public’s experience of dentistry.

Representatives from across the sector then joined a panel discussion on the challenges facing patients as they navigate the system, facilitated by John Cullinane, GDC Executive Manager, Hearings.

The panellists were Fiona Sandom, Chair of the British Association of Dental Therapists, Dominic Innes-Taylor, Clinical Fellow, Office of the Chief Dental Officer, England, Gill Harding, Director of Communications, DentAid and Stefan Czerniawski, GDC Executive Director, Strategy.

The GDC’s Chair, Lord Toby Harris, shared his thoughts on how patients and the public experience dental services and why the Dental Leadership Network matters, before the event was closed by Paul Cushley, Dental Director, NHS National Services Scotland.

The GDC’s Chair, Lord Toby Harris, said:

“We need to listen to the perspectives of others. That is what the Dental Leadership Network is about – and today we have been listening, engaging and focusing on the patient and public perspective. We all want patients to receive the safe and effective oral healthcare they need. We are all united on that.”

The full text of the GDC’s Chair’s keynote is available here.

The objectives are:

  • Share information and build relationships
  • Create a better understanding of everyone’s remit, priorities and shared challenges
  • Encourage collaboration and ownership to resolve shared challenges

BDA encourages dentists to complete new workforce survey

With the General Dental Council’s annual renewal process for dentists now open, the British Dental Association has encouraged registrants to take part in the voluntary collection of workforce data, to help provide a clear picture of the crisis facing NHS dentistry.

Dentists will need to renew their registration by 31 December. As part of this year’s renewal, the GDC is for the first time asking registrants to complete, on a voluntary basis, a small number of additional questions about the work they undertake as a registered dental professional.

The BDA believes this process has scope to give the clearest impression of the challenges facing the dental workforce, UK wide. The regulator has given reassurances that the data will not be used to identify individuals and data will be published anonymously. DCP data collection will coincide with their registration cycle in July.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: “We have long argued that there should be better workforce data given the wholesale inadequacy of the information currently available. The GDC is the logical organisation to undertake this work given its regular interaction with all registrants.

“This is purely voluntary, and we’ve received explicit assurances that all responses will be anonymised.

“At present Ministers can’t tell where the real ‘dental deserts’ are. We would encourage all dentists to participate, so we can provide the clearest of picture of the crisis this service faces.”

General Dental Council seeks valuable workforce insights as part of renewal

As part of an effort to deepen the understanding the dental workforce the General Dental Council (GDC) will be asking dental professionals to share a few details of their working patterns as part of their annual renewal.

This additional work pattern data, which will be provided on a voluntary basis, will help to build on the very limited workforce data that the dental sector can currently use.

The GDC is able to address this challenge as it is in the unique position of having the most complete data available, a list of everyone who is registered to practise dentistry, across all the professions and the four nations of the UK. However, the registration data currently held only tells us who is registered with the GDC and does not provide details of what they are doing.

The responses the GDC receives will help it and others to better understand:

  • Where dental professionals are working.
  • What they are doing.
  • The number of hours they are working.
  • Whether they are working in NHS or private practice.
  • How the way dental professionals are working changes over time.

All submissions will be anonymous and the GDC will ensure that no individual can be identified. Furthermore, the answers dental professionals provide will not affect their access to services or how the GDC treats them. The GDC will use the responses to undertake analyses, produce reports and make the data available to any external organisations and stakeholders who request it.

Helping the sector to understand its workforce better will inform discussions and support better decision-making to improve access to services in the future.

Gurvinder Soomal, GDC Chief Operating Officer, said: “We know that information about dental professionals’ working patterns is limited, which makes workforce planning challenging. Following discussions with many stakeholders across dentistry, we have decided to ask dental professionals to provide some additional information as part of their renewal process.

“Understanding more about the dental workforce will provide valuable insight for future workforce resource planning. Completing this is a valuable opportunity, as having a better understanding of our workforce and its needs can only help bring about the changes the profession and patients want and needed.”

General Dental Council’s priorities approved for the next three years, setting the ARF for 2024

Following a detailed and thorough review, the General Dental Council’s (GDC’s) priorities have been approved by their Council for the next three years in line with the Corporate Strategy 2023-2025. In doing so, this has set the budget and Annual Retention Fee (ARF) for 2024. 

The ARF for 2024 will be £621 for dentists (a reduction of £69 or 10%) and £96 for dental care professionals (a reduction of £18 or 15.8%).

The Council must review the financial position each year to ensure that there is the right balance of income and expenditure and will do so again in 2025. The Council’s current intention is that the ARF in 2025 will be retained at the same level to provide certainty for registrants but this decision must be made at the time of the review, taking into account the GDC’s priorities and external economic factors. 

GDC Chair, Lord Toby Harris, said: “Council has set fees at a level that ensures we can continue to fulfil our statutory role of maintaining patient safety and public confidence for the next year. Although we will review the GDC’s plans again next year, we will go into this with an intention to maintain the ARF at the same level in 2025.”

The level of uncertainty around income and expenditure remains high, due to ongoing volatility in the UK economy.  

While the GDC is confident that the lower level of the ARF will provide the income required for 2024, it will be reviewed for 2025 by Council. In 2025, Council consult on the Corporate Strategy for 2026-2028, which will then set the ARF for subsequent years. 

GDC Chief Executive and Registrar, Ian Brack, said: “The GDC faces continuing high inflation, financial uncertainty and external risk. We are engaged in a major review of how we take forward international registration in the light of our revised powers, and we are investing in additional capacity to help maintain or improve performance. Nevertheless, we have been able to produce a robust plan which delivers these activities and is also expected to provide a reduced ARF for registrants for the remainder of the 2023-2025 strategy period.”

General Dental Council announces the departure of the Chief Executive

After nearly eight years leading the GDC, Ian Brack will be stepping down as Chief Executive and Registrar of the General Dental Council (GDC), on 6 November. 

Under his leadership the organisation has changed almost beyond recognition, and Ian Brack is leaving having placed the GDC on a sound financial footing and implemented a strong culture of planning and operational delivery. 

The GDC’s Council is soon to confirm the budget and ARF for next year, along with the Costed Corporate Plan for 2024-2026. Having these important decisions settled will be a good point to recruit a new CEO to take the GDC’s priorities into the future.   

The Chief Operating Officer, Gurvinder Soomal, will act as Interim Chief Executive until a new CEO and Registrar is in place. 

The GDC’s Chair, Lord Toby Harris, said: “I would like to take the opportunity to say that my colleagues on the Council and I have very much enjoyed working with Ian over the years and are grateful for the significant contribution he has made to the GDC. I am personally grateful to him for helping me to settle into the role after my appointment as Chair. Both I and my colleagues on the Council wish Ian the very best for the future, and we look forward to working with Gurvinder as interim CEO.”

GDC and other healthcare regulators release Whistleblowing Disclosures Report 2023

The GDC has joined eight other UK healthcare regulators in publishing an annual report on whistleblowing disclosures.

Rather than publish this information separately, the regulators have compiled an annual report jointly to highlight their coordinated effort in working together to highlight and address whistleblowing concerns raised to them.

The aim in the report is to be transparent about how regulators handle disclosures, highlight the action taken about these issues, and to improve collaboration across the health sector. Speaking up to protect others is important, and the GDC wants to encourage this, especially when there are serious concerns regarding public safety or confidence.

The number of whistleblowing disclosures the GDC received this year was 82, compared to 61 last year. This was a return to the level of disclosures the GDC had received in previous years, indicating last year may have been an outlier.

Compared to other regulators the GDC received a higher proportion of disclosures for the size of the register. Most dentistry is provided in a primary care setting and outside the more robust clinical governance frameworks that characterise some other forms of healthcare, and this may mean that alternative disclosure routes are less present in dentistry, with a larger proportion being dealt with by the regulator.

The GDC has continued to review its processes and procedures to identify whistleblowing concerns earlier and has a more robust process for this at the point a concern is received. This has included recognising how whistleblowing concerns differ from other concerns raised by dental professionals about other dental professionals, often referred to as ‘blue on blue’. 

This Whistleblowing disclosures report 2023 is published jointly by the GDC with the General Chiropractic Council, General Medical Council, General Optical Council, General Osteopathic Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Health and Care Professions Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council and Social Work England. 

You can and read the GDC’s definition of a whistleblower and the Whistleblowing disclosures report 2023 on its website.

Dental Protection welcomes GDC pilot to speed up some investigation processes

Dental Protection has welcomed the Fitness to Practise pilot launched by the General Dental Council (GDC) aimed at concluding simple cases more quickly, in the absence of wider regulatory reform.

The pilot will run for six months and deal solely with single patient clinical complaints where there are no previous fitness to practice concerns. According to the GDC, these currently make up 40% of all matters referred to the assessment stage and take more than 30 weeks on average to resolve.

Dental Protection hopes the pilot will demonstrate that more can be done by the GDC to improve and speed up the process for all cases.

Dr George Wright, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “Action by the government to amend the GDC’s legislation could give the regulator discretion not to take forward investigations where allegations clearly do not require action, and therefore dedicate more time to the most serious allegations. In the absence of this, we have been calling on the GDC to make more progress in tackling the delay in case handling itself.

“It is encouraging that the GDC has taken this step to trial more informed decision making early in the process in respect of simple cases, with a view to avoiding delays. This is a welcome move, and we hope it results in resolving this cohort of cases more quickly.

“We also hope the pilot demonstrates the potential for the GDC to do more to bring about speedier, more informed and robust decision making across all cases.

“The bigger concern for the dental professionals we represent at Dental Protection is the lack of proportionality and timeliness in the handling of cases that are not closed at assessment. We believe the consistent use of more experienced caseworkers in particularly complex cases would result in better and faster decision making, as well as fewer adjournments by Case Examiners and challenges to the decisions made.

“A key factor that could substantially improve proportionality would be for the GDC to reconsider its policy of referring matters to Case Examiners where it is clear from their own clinical adviser that misconduct cannot be established. We will continue to raise these concerns with the GDC.”

General Dental Council launches fitness to practise pilot

The General Dental Council (GDC) has launched a pilot that will test a change to the initial stages of its fitness to practise processes to improve proportionality and timeliness. Process changes are being made to the way investigations are carried out in certain cases, to help to resolve issues faster while continuing to effectively maintain public safety and confidence in the dental profession.

The GDC wants to ensure matters that do not pose a risk to public safety or confidence are concluded as quickly as possible. The change in process being piloted will help ensure the regulator is fully informed of all relevant facts as early as possible, ensuring that only issues amounting to a fitness to practise concern are fully investigated.

The pilot will run for six months starting on 4 September. It will be applied initially to single patient clinical practice cases, where the dental professional involved has no previous fitness to practise concerns but may be expanded during the pilot.   

The GDC’s current legislative framework effectively requires all matters relating to the clinical practice of a dental professional to be referred from the initial assessment stage to assessment for an investigation. Considerable effort and resources are then allocated to gathering information, whether or not it is required, to reach a decision. 

The change being piloted is designed to limit the information gathered to what is specifically required in each case. In these cases, that will normally be the patient’s clinical records. The aim is to reduce the time it takes to conclude low level issues. The process will rely on being able to access records quickly, so the cooperation of dental professionals and their representatives is needed if the pilot is to succeed.  

The new pilot reflects the GDC’s desire to make improvements to the fitness to practise process where it can, ahead of any potential regulatory reform. It is also hoped that improved timeliness and proportionality will reduce the impact of fitness to practise investigations on the health and wellbeing of those involved.

John Cullinane, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, said:

“We know our investigations can be complex and take a long time and that they can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those involved. We also know that lengthy investigations, about what can be perceived as minor issues, can lead to feelings of mistrust and frustration in the fitness to practise process.

“We will continue to try and improve our processes within the current legislation, and we hope that by working with others, we can make some significant improvements in timeliness without affecting the outcomes of these investigations. Our own analysis tells us that cases that would fall into the scope of this pilot do not normally progress beyond our assessment stage, so we hope this small change will make a big difference.”

More than 2,000 DCPs still to make their CPD statement

With the 28 August deadline fast approaching, over 2,000 dental care professionals still need to make their annual CPD declaration, with an additional 1,500 who have made a statement, but have not yet met their CPD requirements.  

CPD rules require dental professionals to make a compliant statement every year by the 28 August and the General Dental Council (GDC) is calling on DCPs to make sure their statements are in order before it’s too late. 

The vast majority of dental care professionals renewed their registration with no complications, but 3,487 have not yet met their CPD requirements. That figure includes 2,071 DCPs who have paid their annual retention fee and made an indemnity declaration, but still need to provide a CPD statement.  

DCPs need to complete at least 10 hours of CPD over each two-year period. Even if they have not completed any CPD activity in 2022 – 2023, they are still required to make a statement. In these circumstances, they should submit a zero-hours CPD statement. 

Not completing a CPD declaration can have serious consequences for individuals and for the team they work in, as non-compliance may end up with removal from the register. It is therefore very important for DCPs to check now to make sure they are compliant before the deadline of 28 August.  

The quickest and easiest way to make a CPD statement is through eGDC. We also provide further guidance and information about Enhanced CPD.

Total number of UK registered dental care professionals increases following renewal

The number of dental care professionals (DCPs) on the UK Register, following the recent annual renewal period, has risen when compared with the trajectory of previous years. On the morning after removals there were 71,769 DCPs on the Register, an increase of 2,093 on the equivalent figure for 2022.  

This year, 3,541 DCPs did not renew their registration, which is 4.9% of those who had renewed their registration by 31 July. This compares to an average of 6.4% over the previous four years.  

The number of dental nurses removed from the Register fell by 752 compared to last year, with the total number on the register standing at 59,238 at the time of compiling. The numbers of other professions on the Register as of 3 August were as follows: clinical dental technician, 404; dental hygienist, 9,177; dental technician, 5,023; dental therapist, 5,558; orthodontic therapist, 957.  
These figures provide a useful benchmark for the total number of DCPs registered in the UK. However, it is important to note that they do not provide insight into the number of professionals working in different patterns (e.g. full time vs part time), how many DCPs are working in NHS services compared to private practice or local workforce condition.  
While workforce planning does not lie within the GDC’s statutory remit, we have stated our intention to gather, with the support of stakeholders, some simple workforce data as part of the annual renewal of dentists’ registration, providing that it does not disrupt the renewal process, to inform the discussion on this important issue.  
While the register is constantly changing, what we invariably see (for both the dentist and DCP registers) is that over the course of the year, the number of registered professionals fluctuates due to new registrations, and as professionals leave the Register for a range of reasons.  
This year, the GDC made it easier for dental professionals to restore their name to the registers so that they can continue to practise in the UK. This important change means that dental professionals who have been off the register for less than 12 months and have always complied with CPD, are able to sign a declaration that it is up to date, rather than send us a copy of their full CPD record.  
The GDC publishes monthly and annual registration reports, which provide further information, with the annual data for 2022 published in May.