Dental Protection has urged the GDC to ensure one of the key pillars of its three-year strategy includes reducing the impact of a fitness to practise investigation on registrants’ wellbeing.

In its response to the GDC’s consultation on its strategic plan for the next three years, it welcomed the second strategic aim to ‘ensure concerns are addressed effectively and proportionately to protect the public’ but it said proportionality is also integral to the wellbeing of registrants.

It called on the GDC to ensure this strategic aim considers registrant wellbeing and helps to address the level of fear that exists among dental professionals regarding a GDC investigation.

Dr Raj Rattan, said:

“We agree that driving improvements to ensure the public’s concerns are addressed effectively and proportionately should be one of the GDC’s main strategic priorities. Dental Protection would like to work with the GDC on this aim, in particular on the desire to move towards a system which resolves complaints with only the most serious being dealt with as a fitness to practise investigation.

“Proportionate use of powers is integral not only in protecting the public but in protecting the mental wellbeing of registrants who may find themselves being the subject of a complaint to the regulator. We believe that reducing the stress of a fitness to practise process is a key tenet of the GDC being perceived as fair and proportionate and therefore should form a key part of this strategic aim.

“The level of fear that exists amongst dental professionals regarding the GDC is concerning. In a recent survey of early career dentists nearly a third told us they worry about a GDC investigation always, most of the time, or frequently. Fear does not support a culture of openness and learning; something all healthcare professionals should seek to foster. In respect of the GDC, this fear appears to stem principally from the fitness to practise process.

“We appreciate the GDC is making improvements in this area, but we hope more can be done. For example, we believe the GDC could explore how initial contact is made with a registrant to reduce the stress from what will always be an unpleasant letter to receive. A review of its style guide, perhaps considering best practice across regulators, could also be implemented as part of its strategic aim.

“While we understand certain legal information must be imparted to registrants, the tone and language of some written communications can cause unnecessary distress, overwhelm, and impact on mental wellbeing. Tone and language are also useful tools in creating a sense of proportionality.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the GDC to enable further progress in this area.”

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