Memorandum by the General Dental Council
1. The General Dental Council (GDC) welcomes
the opportunity to respond to the Health Select Committee Inquiry
into Patient Safety. We hope our comments are useful.
2. The GDC regulates dental professionals
in the UK. We regulate the whole dental team, over 88,000 individuals,
whether they provide dental care privately or through the NHS.
All dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, dental nurses,
dental technicians, clinical dental technicians and orthodontic
therapists must be registered with us to work in the UK.
3. Patient safety is at the heart of everything
we do. We work with the public and the profession to protect and
promote patient safety through effective regulation of dental
professionals in the UK. We regulate dental professionals throughout
their professional life by:
assuring the quality of dental education
registering qualified dental professionals
setting standards of dental practice
ensuring professionals keep up-to-date
helping patients with complaints
about a dental professional
working to strengthen patient protection
More information about our work can be found
on our website www.gdc-uk.org
4. All patients are entitled to high standards
of professional and personal conduct from those who provide their
dental care. We provide guidance on the standards dentists and
dental care professionals should live up to. When someone registers
with us they are committing to upholding these standards.
5. We are committed to making our guidance
clearer and more relevant to all our registrant groups. One way
that we have sought to do this is by providing clarity on the
scope of practice of dentists and dental care professionals. In
2007 we set up a special working group to define the skills that
each professional group should have at the point of qualification,
the skills each group may develop throughout their career, and
the skills which should be "reserved" to particular
groups. We will be publishing new guidance setting this out towards
the end of 2008, following a wide-ranging consultation exercise.
6. The vast majority of dentists and dental
care professionals value, and adhere to, high professional standards
and deserve the trust the public puts in them. But some do not
and then we have to ask: is the person "fit to practise"?
7. Our role allows us to take action when
a dental professional's ability, behaviour or health makes them
unfit to practise. If we hear about concerns that a dental professional
is falling short of our standards, and may not be fit to work
as a dental professional, we will investigate. If the situation
is serious enough, we can restrict or remove their right to work
in the UK.
8. We work with primary care trusts, local
health boards, other regulatory bodies and other referring bodies
to ensure the appropriate action is taken when patient safety
is at risk due to the actions of a dental professional.
9. Patient safety can be compromised by
illegal dentistry. We investigate allegations of illegal dentistry
and, where appropriate, we prosecute. Our concern with illegal
practice is focused on patient protection: illegal practice is
unregulated, and takes place outside the network of systems and
processes (including professional regulation, clinical governance
and redress systems) which work together to protect patients.
10. There is no legal onus on us to prosecute,
but we doagainst, for instance, dentists who have been
struck off or removed from the register but continue to practise,
unregistered dental technicians who are working clinically, and
beauty salons that offer tooth whitening. In 2007 we successfully
prosecuted three individuals, one of them on two separate occasions.
11. We have a role in quality assuring dental
education. We approve new courses and carry out inspections of
12. Patient protection is paramount in our
quality assurance work. If a training course does not meet our
requirements, we turn it down. But we give guidance on where it
falls short, so training providers can reapply for approval.
13. We are holding a public conference on
1 October. We will use this opportunity to ask the public their
views on their expectations of dentistry, dental professionals
and regulation. The views from this event will be used to develop
our corporate strategy and to strengthen our role in protecting
14. We now regulate every member of the
clinical dental team. That in itself is a tremendous step forward
for patient protection. Rolling out compulsory continuing professional
development to everyone on our registers, developing a scheme
for "revalidating" dental professionals, clamping down
on unregistered people who perform tooth whitening and other dental
procedures illegallyalways our concern is to strengthen
the protection we offer patients. We will continue to do so.