The General Dental Council has not met all the Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) Standards of Good Regulation.
This review was the first ‘periodic review’ undertaken by the PSA under its new process, where, every three years, the PSA carry out a more intensive ‘periodic review’ and in the other two years we monitor performance and produce shorter monitoring reports.
The PSA found that the GDC is still not improving the timeliness of its fitness to practise cases. In the report, the PSA wrote:
“We have had concerns about the time it takes the GDC to deal with fitness to practise cases in recent years. The position has not improved this year. Although the GDC is taking steps to improve its performance, it is still taking too long to progress cases through the system, and the number of open older cases has increased. Due to the serious and ongoing delays we have concluded that Standard 15 is not met.”
Such is the PSA’s concern about the GDC’s timeliness in dealing with fitness to practise cases, that it took action under its escalation policy to write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to raise its concerns.
What the GDC said
On its website, the GDC wrote:
There has been a long-term issue that GDC fitness to practise cases often take too long to resolve. A great deal of effort and resource has been applied, over the past decade, to addressing the multiple – and changing – causes of this issue. This has shown success in the past – but we have been unable to sustain it, most recently because of the impacts of Covid and the difficulties we have had in recruiting staff.To address our current challenges, we have made modifications to streamline our processes and try alternative methods of managing the caseload, and we have expanded the size of the casework team. This will make a significant difference but our ability to work efficiently and effectively in fitness to practise continues to be impeded by our outdated and prescriptive legislation. Reform of that legislation now looks unlikely for some years to come, and so we have been placing even greater emphasis on making the small iterative changes that are possible within the current legislation to improve our processes and systems.
“We welcome the PSA’s recognition of the steps we have taken, and continue to take, to improve our timeliness and agree with their assessment of performance in this review period. Backlogs in fitness to practise can grow quickly but, once established, any steps to address them will take time to yield positive results. The fact that we wrote about these issues and what we were doing to address them over a year ago is indicative of this. Once a backlog develops, timeliness suffers and the existence of the backlog itself makes rectifying timeliness issues all the more challenging.
We are now beginning to see the benefits of the steps we have taken however, and expect timeliness to improve over the next review period.”