Dental regulation to become better for patients and for professionals


26 January 2017


For immediate release


The General Dental Council (GDC) has published plans for how its approach to regulating dental professionals will be reformed to put public safety firmly at its heart.


Proposals outlined today (26 January 2017) show how the GDC will focus on the prevention of harm. The GDC will make more active use of education and learning to support dental professionals throughout their career.


Patients will be supported to raise their concerns in the most effective way; we will build better relationships with partners and be clearer to the public and professionals in what circumstances our enforcement powers will be used.


The changes are focused on securing patient protection, public confidence in dental services and a fairer regulatory system for professionals, which will be more agile, graduated and proportionate.  Making these changes work will require the dental profession, regulators, educators and the many organisations and individuals involved in the sector to play an active role.

Commenting on the proposals, William Moyes, Chair of the General Dental Council, said: “Today’s plans present a significant shift in how we will regulate dental professionals in the future.

“At present, we deal with harm after things have gone wrong, investigating the resultant complaints and where necessary, applying sanctions.

“For the future, we want to give much more emphasis to preventing patients being harmed in the first place and ensuring lessons are learned from the cases that come to the GDC. This is better for patients and for dental professionals, and for the reputation of the entire dental team.”

Ian Brack, Chief Executive of the GDC, said: “This is our most significant proposal in a generation and I encourage anyone involved with dental services, whether as a dental professional, employer, educator, policy maker, indemnifier, professional association or patient, to engage with our plans.

“We have made it clear from the outset that we cannot do this alone – the proposals require  fundamentally better collaboration with others than we have achieved in the past.

“I am confident that our proposals can make the system better for patients and fairer for dental professionals and strengthen public confidence in dental services.”

Broadly set out under four areas of work, Shifting the balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation will see the GDC:


  • Support and empower the profession through a range of education, learning and development activities such as embedding the Standards for the dental team, making sure dental trainees are equipped with the right skills before they are accepted onto the registers, and that those skills are maintained through measures such as Continuing Professional Development. The intention is for the regulatory system to help to reduce the likelihood of things from going wrong, rather than to respond to harm once it has taken place.


  • Support patients to feel confident their concerns are appropriately raised and resolved by the right body at the right time. Patients raise many issues, concerns, complaints and feedback about dental services with the GDC which Fitness to Practise (FtP) powers are not well suited to address. The GDC wants to see the ability of the sector to deal with complaints enhanced and strengthened so issues raised by patients are dealt with appropriately, which is very often in the first instance by the dental practice.


  • Continue its commitment to work better with partners to improve the regulation of dentistry in the UK. It wants to strengthen its relationships with systems regulators and the NHS in the four nations, as well as professional associations, indemnity providers and employers, including corporate providers of dental services. The GDC cannot bring about real improvement without the support of the profession and its partners.


  • Make it clear how and when it will use its formal FtP enforcement powers to manage serious risk to patients. Enforcement action is sometimes necessary, but the GDC’s aim is to use it when dental professionals put patients at serious risk or their actions damage public confidence in dental services. We have already widened the range of enforcement options available to us such as voluntary undertakings and anticipate accessing a range of tools across the regulatory system by better collaboration with other organisations and the profession. The proposals will be much clearer about when FtP powers are likely to offer the most appropriate solution, and to help patients navigate the alternatives.


The GDC is seeking views on the proposals. The discussion document will be live for three months and closes on 26 April 2017. You can take part on our website and join the conversation online using #shiftingthebalance

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