GDC has published the outcome report to our discussion document on shaping the direction of lifelong learning for dental professionals.

In 2019, the General Dental Council (GDC) published a discussion document to invite ideas, comments and views on the future development of lifelong learning, or continuous professional development (CPD), in dentistry. It sought views of dental professionals and other stakeholders on proposals for a portfolio model for lifelong learning, which would have a focus on quality and would be different from the current system, which is focused primarily on quantity.

In particular, it sought views on what could improve planning for CPD; on the role of peer learning and reflective practice; on better informing professional choice; and on harnessing value derived from activities undertaken.

Overview: The future model for lifelong learning

  • The responses received indicated broad support for the proposal that a future lifelong learning scheme should be based on a portfolio model. This would be a move towards a professionally owned, self-directed model, albeit within a framework set by the regulator.
  • Some concerns were raised about the practicalities of the proposed model and how compliance would be monitored.
  • Respondents broadly agreed with the list of proposed components of a future scheme: for each proposed component, over half of those responding agreed that they should feature in a future model. The list included ‘active learning’, which was the most popular component, and peer and mentor/coach interaction, which was picked by slightly fewer respondents. While most of these activities may not count as verifiable activities under the current CPD scheme, they can be extremely valuable and there is a strong argument that activity where value is gained should be counted in a future system.
  • Although there was support for the portfolio model, respondents raised some concerns about how this kind of model would be monitored. In a future system, the GDC would still require assurance that professionals carry out CPD.

CPD practices

  • There was much support for making active learning, such as peer learning, part of a future scheme. However, some noted that some existing peer review activities declined, that professionals lacked clarity and structure to make the best use of them, and that there was a lack of trained peer facilitators.
  • Many cited the lack of online and remote facilities for learning with or from peers as a key barrier.
  • The GDC also invited views about the use of reflection in CPD. Feedback suggested that reflection was not as significant a component as might have been hoped in informing many professionals’ CPD activities.

Informing CPD choices

  • Opinion was divided about the idea that minimum hourly requirements could be removed. Some respondents argued that removing these requirements should make the system more flexible and meaningful and better tailored to individual needs and field of practice, and that the focus would shift to the quality of CPD and benefit gained, away from quantity and counting hours. However, others argued that retaining the minimum hours requirement was important to ensure that dental professionals carried out a minimum amount of learning.  The minimum hours requirement sets clear expectations and provides a simple system for monitoring compliance. Also, some respondents raised concerns that a system with greater flexibility could lead to some professionals “cheating the system”.
  • There was a range of views about the possible impact of the removal of recommended topics. While a large majority of individual respondents agreed that recommended topics had a positive impact on their CPD choices, almost half of respondents also agreed with suggestion that they could be removed from a future system. Three quarters agreed with a statement that ‘recommended topics were a ‘tick-box’ exercise’. 
  • The GDC weew asked where the responsibility should lie for driving CPD activities and recommended topics for dental professionals. Most respondents told us that this did not sit solely with the GDC and that many organisations had a role to play in supporting better CPD choices. Some of these organisations also replied to our survey. They told us that they recognised their role too, and that they fulfilled it by informing their members of good and innovative practice and developing and promoting CPD around it
  • Incentives such as paid time off, free CPD, or a discounted ARF were common suggestions about how to motivate professionals to adopt positive changes into their practice. Some stakeholders argued that it would take the cultural shift mentioned above for professionals to better tailor their CPD choices to their field of practice. Some respondents suggested that an easy-to-use online system with less paperwork would help professionals to adopt a portfolio model. Others still said that carrying out CPD was part of being a professional and that little encouragement should be needed. 
  • Respondents stressed the importance of a wide-ranging outreach programme to inform and engage professionals, providers, and others before any changes are implemented. We agree with this point. These responses have also helped us to spot gaps in communication and engagement around the existing scheme, which we will seek to address.

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