Kings View Chambers look at the recent change announced by the Dental Professionals Hearings Service to the way that admissions made by dental professionals are handled at the preliminary stage of a fitness to practise hearing.
“Dental Professionals need to very carefully consider their approach and evidence in relation to GDC fitness to practise hearings. This change means that any admission will, result in a charge found proved, and the committee will move to the next stage. Charges admitted will not be open to scrutiny.
This means Dental Professionals need to very carefully consider their approach and should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Throughout the GDC investigation and a fitness to practise hearing, Dental Professionals have the right to be legally represented.
If you are not legally represented, the onus will entirely be on you to prepare your case, deal with preliminary matters and all the other committee stages.
The GDC’s guidance makes clear that “The independent legal adviser’s role is to assist the committee and advise them on any questions of law that arise throughout the hearing. The independent legal adviser cannot provide you, or any other parties to the proceedings, with any legal advice.”
Admissions at the Preliminary Stage – What is changing?
Dental professionals will be asked whether they admit to any of the charges set out for the fitness to practise hearing at the end of the preliminary stage. Where an admission is made, the Practice Committee will proceed on the basis that the facts have been proved.
Before this change, evidence in relation to all charges were required.
The changes being made will come into effect on 31 October, and will affect those who are subject to a fitness to practise hearing. Any hearings opened prior to 31 October, will not be subject to the new processes.
Making improvements in the absence of regulatory reform
Lord Toby Harris, GDC Chair, recently said:
“Our assessment is that regulatory reform will not happen for the GDC during the next three years and therefore, our intention is to refocus our efforts in areas where there is greatest potential for improvement within the current legislation.
“We are always changing our processes and systems in this way but we want to increase and re-focus this activity. This approach involves a wide range of relatively small revisions so is far more complicated, iterative, and prone to disruption than it would be in the context of legislative reform. But it is the best option open to us to improve our services.
“One example of this is a change to the way that admissions made by dental professionals are handled at the preliminary stage of a fitness to practise hearing. The Dental Professionals Hearings Service has introduced the change to reduce the time it takes to complete a substantive hearing. It’s part of a wider programme of work to improve performance in fitness to practise.”