In a previous article, we looked at “Fitness to practise learning” and the importance of reflection on the outcome of fitness to practise investigations.
The GDC publish insight data relating to concerns or cases received, and subsequently opened, at the initial assessment stage of its fitness to practise process. It does so, so that dental practitioners can improve their practise and minimise the risk of becoming subject to a fitness to practise investigation.
The GDC’s initial assessment stage
The image below shows how the initial assessment stage fits into the GDC’s fitness to practise process.
Summary of the initial assessment process:
How the GDC initially assess concerns?
All concerns raised with the GDC are considered by the initial assessment decision group (IADG). The group meets daily to review any concerns received and is made up of GDC staff members, including clinical dental advisers.
Initial Assessment Test’ (IAT)
Each concern raised is considered by the IADG using the ‘Initial Assessment Test’ (IAT) (outlined below).
- Does the information give rise to a concern that:
i) harm has been caused, or may have been caused, to a member of the public, and/or
ii) public confidence in the profession has been, or may have been, undermined?
2. Could further investigation result in a different answer to i) and ii)?
Note that in this context, ‘harm’ is not just physical, for example, damage to a patient’s dentition from a clinical incident. It can be a range of different types of harm, such as emotional, psychological and financial. The IADG must consider the term broadly, when assessing concerns.
The IAT also refers to ‘public confidence’. This is the expectation the public has for dental professionals to act, or behave, in a safe and professional manner. Investigations will be opened when serious shortcomings in conduct and competence have the potential to undermine public confidence in the dental professions or services.
The initial assessment decision group (IADG) comes to a joint decision about whether the initial assessment test (IAT) (see above) has been met for each concern raised. It is important to note, that at this stage, there does not need to be full evidence to show that the IAT has been met. Instead, the IADG assesses whether the concern, on principle, would be a fitness to practise issue should it be proven true. The Dentists Act 1984 (as amended) S27(2) and 36N(2) provides the grounds for which fitness to practise can be impaired.
The IADG will also consider the scale of the risk of harm to patients, or damage to public confidence, that the concern carries. This assessment of risk helps to determine how urgent the investigation needs to be, including whether it needs to go through a more urgent process called the Interim Orders Committee (IOC). It is then for the next stages of the fitness to practise process to gather the evidence necessary to complete the investigation.
When will the GDC investigate a concern?
Any concern, which is assessed as carrying a potentially significant risk, will need to be investigated further. These will be concerns that relate to a dental professional’s ‘fitness to practise’ which is defined in the Dentists Act 1984 (as amended) S27(2):
A dental professional’s fitness to practise is of concern when it relates to:
- deficient professional performance
- a charge, caution or conviction for a criminal offence
- adverse physical or mental health.
It doesn’t matter if the concern raised occurred outside the UK, or if it occurred at a time when the individual was not registered with the GDC.
Some concerns will be closed after initial assessment because they fall outside of our scope. These concerns include assisting with refunds or compensation, immigration issues, civil matters unrelated to dentistry, employment or commercial disputes and concerns involving tax.
Kings View Chambers
Specialist healthcare and medical regulation defence barristers dealing with all fitness to practise matters before:
- General Medical Council
- General Pharmaceutical Council
- General Dental Council
- Nursing & Midwifery Council
- Health and Care Professions Council
- Social Work England
Are you a healthcare professional with a fitness to practise issue?
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