Healthcare professionals can improve their practise and minimise the risk of becoming subject to a fitness to practise investigation by reflecting on fitness to practise cases and learning from these.

The General Dental Council (GDC) is actively encouraging dentists and other dental practitioners to reflect on the outcome of fitness to practise procedures and to learn from these to improve their own practise.

The GDC regularly publish learning tools designed to help dentists and other dental practitioners understand the types of fitness to practise concerns raised and the different issues represented saying:

“We provide details of what happened following the initial assessment and the reasons for our actions. These insights will help you to reflect on your own practice and to learn from the experience of others… Most importantly, please think about any adjustments you might make that could improve the quality of care and services provided by you and your dental team.” 

Insights from GDC fitness to practise concerns: Jan to March 2019

The GDC’s insights report for the first quarter in 2019 shows that the number of complaints by the GDC continues to fall from 681 in 2015 to 342 in 2019.

Of the 342 complaints received, the majority (251) were opened for further investigation, 72 closed with no further action with the rest referred to another body or adjourned.

The insight provided by the GDC on the complaints that were opened for further investigation, 71 cases related to a single patient complaint, with 62 cases falling within the two following themes:

  • 33 – Cases related to a single conduct or behaviour concern e.g. putting personal gain before patient interest or a conviction (such as driving under the influence of alcohol or substance misuse).
  • 29 – Cases raised a single issue relating to clinical treatment. These included recommending treatment not clinically indicated, working outside of scope of practice, or concerns specific to procedures (e.g. orthodontics, examinations, implants).

Clinical treatment concerns

Of the 251 cases opened for investigation,86 cases (130 themes) related to clinical treatment. These were either issues with a specific procedure, such as an extraction, or issues raised regarding a wider treatment plan over several appointments e.g. orthodontics.

The following are examples of cases opened in Q1 2019 with issues relating to clinical treatment:

  • A patient contacted us about orthodontic treatment performed by a dental professional. The concern stated that the treatment had taken longer than expected and was incomplete, due to dental supplier payment issues at the practice. The patient raised additional conduct concerns and, overall, the decision group judged that the potential risk of patient harm and potential damage to public confidence in dental professions was at a level that warranted further investigation.
  • A patient raised concerns over a check-up conducted without the removal dentures, which they felt could have prevented adequate screening of their soft tissues. Further, it was alleged that the dental professional had acted unprofessionally towards the patient. The information provided by the patient suggested that harm may have been caused as a result of the treatment received. Therefore, the case was opened for further investigation. 

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