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Lifelong learning

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Lifelong Learning is the GDC’s mandatory scheme for continuing professional development (CPD), a requirement for recertification. The scheme helps dentists to demonstrate that they are up-to-date with the latest developments in their area. Public scrutiny of the self-regulated professions is intensifying and dentists need to be able to demonstrate the high standards to which they are working. As well as offering greater protection and reassurance for patients, CPD has also led to increased professional satisfaction for dentists. Complying with the CPD requirement is an individual responsibility.

CPD is mandatory for all dentists and dental care professionals to retain their names on the General Dental Council’s registers and is monitored in discrete five-yearly cycles. The statutory scheme was phased in over three years:

  • 1 January 2002: dentists registered after 1 January 1990

  • 1 January 2003: dentists registered between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1989

  • 1 January 2004: dentists registered on or before 31 December 1979

Newly-qualified dentists or first-time registrants start their five-year CPD cycle from 1 January following their registration date. For example, dentists registering in September 2013 began their CPD cycle on 1 January 2014.

In 2008, the GDC introduced a compulsory CPD scheme for DCPs, along the lines of the dentists’ CPD scheme, but starting in August rather than January. DCPs as well as dentists also have to cover certain compulsory subject areas as part of their verifiable CPD requirement.

A flexible scheme

Lifelong Learning has been designed to be highly flexible, to accommodate personal situations as far as possible. Although the GDC recommends that you undertake 50 hours of CPD per year, of which 15 hours should be verifiable, the five-year cycle allows flexibility for special circumstances, for example family needs, ill health or time abroad. If you think that you will not achieve your target CPD in any given year, let the GDC know about your situation and how you plan to make up the hours during the following years.

In theory, VDPs can fulfil all their CPD requirements through their VT study days, but it is vital that young dentists get into the habit of undertaking CPD and develop contacts in their local area, so full participation in CPD from the start is important for career development.

If you are planning a career break or a time of working abroad, the BDA recommends remaining on the Dentists Register and continuing to stay in touch with developments through CPD; the need to undertake CPD continues, even if you are not practising. If you leave the Register with the intention of returning at a later date, you will need to provide proof at re-registering of the CPD that you have undertaken whilst absent, which should be in-line with the GDC’s requirements.

The GDC will accept overseas courses but you must have a certificate or accompanying letter from the course provider that states the number of verifiable hours.

Verifiable CPD

Verifiable CPD is defined as activities with concise educational aims and objectives, clear anticipated outcomes and a means of quality control. A course with verifiable CPD attached should make you aware of what you can expect to learn from it and provide you with the opportunity to feed back to the provider on whether the course fulfilled its aims and you learnt what you expected to. The provider of a verifiable course should give you an attendance certificate stating the course title, your name and the verifiable hours.

Verifiable CPD includes:

  • courses organised by postgraduate dental deaneries

  • courses organised by professional or scientific organisations, which comply with the above criteria - for example, courses provided by BDA, GDPA, Royal Colleges, the FGDP (UK) etc

  • vocational training (VT) or general professional training (GPT) study days

  • commercially-run courses

  • distance learning incorporating a verifiable component,

Recommended core subjects

In 2007, verifiable CPD in the following subjects became a requirement:

  • Medical emergencies (ten hours per five-year cycle)

  • Disinfection and decontamination (five hours per five-year cycle)

  • Radiography and radiation protection (five hours per five year cycle)

The CPR aspect of medical emergencies training should be undertaken annually.

Dentists working in a clinical environment should also undertake CPD in legal and ethical issues and handling complaints, as well as in the early detection of oral cancer. These can be verifiable or general and do not have a recommended number of hours attached to them.


Revalidation, a system to ensure that professionals are fit to stay on the register is being developed over the next few years. The CPD scheme described above will be changed (see information on the most recent CPD consultations in 2012 and 2014) and will form a new scheme which is intended to become the core of a future revalidation system.

GDC information

The GDC has produced an information leaflet for all registrants which can be seen here.



E10 CPD Clinical governance and peer review - Feb 2007         (842.49 KB)