The General Dental Council (GDC) said it was seeing fewer concerns and closing more cases at the early stages of the fitness to practise process.

Writing on its website, Clare Callan, GDC’s Associate Director of Fitness to Practise, wrote:

“We are seeing signs that efforts to improve complaint handling through local resolution are having an impact, and some of our more recent process improvements are starting to have an effect. The initial inquiries pilot has the potential to improve things further.”

The number of concerns received and initially assessed has reduced by more than half over the last decade. Over the same period, the number of people registered to practise dentistry in the UK has increased.

Speaking about what lies behind the trend, she said:

“Work across the sector to emphasise the importance of good complaint handling has certainly contributed. The Dental Complaints Service has grown, helping to resolve issues raised in private practice, while reducing the number of issues they refer to us for an investigation. We have also seen new protections for whistleblowers and the introduction of the professional duty of candour.

“Considerable effort has gone into ensuring that people can find guidance on how to provide feedback or make a complaint before raising it with us, and further improvements have been made in recent months. We have also updated our processes to help make sure people are directed to the organisation best placed to resolve their issues.”

UK Fitness to Practise News

“The majority of cases are resolved early in the process”

She explained that the “low threshold” (at initial assessment stage) means the GDC “need to open a case for the majority of concerns received”. Typically, around 85% of all concerns considered by the Initial Assessment team are progressed for an investigation and proceed to the assessment stage.

Last year, almost 40% of all cases opened for an investigation fell into the category of clinical complaints raised by a single patient.

She continued:

“We have already noticed some positive impacts, with only 12% of cases assessed through the pilot being progressed to case examiners. The Assessment team has reported faster responses to requests for records. Our ability to make fully informed decisions quicker and earlier in the process depends on the cooperation of dental professionals, so we are grateful for the response we have received to our requests for records in the pilot’s first six months.”

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