Campaigning to ensure dentists get an effective and efficient dental regulator is a core aim of BDA Scotland's strategy over the next year.
Over the past few years, the BDA has been speaking up for dentists about the way the General Dental Council has been running its operations and the impact this has been having both on the dental profession, and on patients.
BDA Scotland staff and BDA committee representatives from across the fields of practice, recently met with two of the GDC's Council members, and two members of the GDC Executive – Matthew Hill, Executive Director, Strategy and Tom Scott, Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, to open up a dialogue on working together to improve dental regulation.
Issues discussed: Fitness to Practise on the agenda
We had a frank and open discussion with the GDC on a range of issues, including:
- Underperformance of GDC's Fitness to Practise (FTP) function – latest figures showed that nine of the 22 key performance indicators were 'red'. For example, only 13% of cases had a Case Examiner decision within six months of receipt, against a target of 75%. We said this is unacceptable and is likely to increase stress levels among the profession. The GDC acknowledged its poor FTP performance, and said it is committed to making substantial improvements by the end of this year.
- Local resolution of complaints and performance issues – the GDC agreed with us that, where possible, complaints and other issues should be dealt with locally (at practice or NHS Board level), with only the most serious cases being referred to the Council. One of the Scottish Government's initial priorities in the Oral Health Improvement Plan is to introduce a 'practitioners with problems' scheme. We've argued that it is essential this is established as soon as possible to avoid dentists being referred to the GDC unnecessarily.
- Overfunding of the GDC – we challenged the GDC again on the high cost of the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) and have urged them to consider a lower fee for specific groups, including those dentists working part-time, so they are not disproportionately burdened financially. We also questioned the need for the GDC to hold such substantial reserves – these stood at £28.2 million (March 2018).
- GDC staff vacancies – the GDC acknowledged that their current number of vacancies are a concern, and they felt this was possibly due to uncertainty over staff moving to Birmingham. We've noted a a steady increase in staff turnover over the last 2-3 years.
- Complaints by dentists about other dentists - these account for 9% of all complaints. We believe about half of those could be classed as "vexatious", which wastes GDC time and resources.
What happens next?
We welcomed the GDC's decision to meet with us to hear dentists' concerns, and also felt it was encouraging they took the time to visit the Glasgow Dental School and two practices in Coatbridge and Edinburgh, to get a sense of what the situation is like for dentists on the ground.
We plan to continue this constructive dialogue with the GDC, raising dentists' issues and concerns and to work towards a better system of dental regulation.
Tom Scott has been invited to attend the Scottish Council meeting in December, to discuss the GDC's performance and other issues, with BDA representatives - we will keep you updated on the outcomes from our meetings.
Robert Donald, Chair
BDA Scottish Council
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