A General Dental Council post looks at what “seriousness in fitness to practise (FtP) mean for dental professionals” in light of recent research published.

Elizabeth Gonzalez Malaga, a dentist and the Clinical Fellow at the GDC,wrote:

“The General Dental Council (GDC) recognises that it can be stressful and seen as confusing when a concern is raised, hence its commitment to making improvements to its processes to ensure it is efficient in protecting the public.

 “As part of its commitment to a proportionate and targeted FtP system, the GDC, together with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), commissioned research to investigate how seriousness in FtP is understood and applied by UK health professional regulators. The research provides valuable findings for all in the sector to consider, including individual dental professionals such as myself.”

Engagement is key

The research shows that a registrant’s level of engagement with their regulator is an important factor in how the seriousness of an FtP case is determined and the eventual outcome of it. The sooner and more clearly the regulator can understand the dental professional’s position, the more it becomes possible to make a full assessment of the concern. This is why it’s beneficial to engage with the FtP process, but what does engagement mean?

“In practical terms, it means that, as dental professionals we should respond to correspondence from the GDC at all stages of the FtP process, provide information when requested, make themselves available to co-operate with the investigation and attend hearings. It’s our opportunity to give our side of the story to the concern raised. Being engaged doesn’t mean that you’re admitting wrong-doing – it just means providing information to explain your position.”

Legal advice and representation

In her blog post, she acknowledged that the research “showed that legal advice and representation is a benefit to professionals when navigating the FtP process.”


The COVID-19 pandemic added significant challenges to already overstretched healthcare systems. Work environments, organisational issues and team interactions are all parts of the environmental context that are considered in FtP decision-making.

“However, the research highlights that these factors are more likely to be accepted as mitigation if there is evidence that the registrant had raised concerns within the workplace, for example in emails, and if it can be corroborated by other witnesses. This finding is a reminder to us registrants of our professional duty to raise concerns when something poses a risk to patients, members of the public or colleagues, and for employers to act upon feedback and concerns raised by their staff.”


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