Local complaints process looked at
Dentists claim issues could be resolved at local level instead of going to the GDC
A top level working group is to be established to look at how a new “local process” can be set in place to deal with early stage complaints against dentists in Scotland.
Concern has been growing for some time that the vast majority of cases are being sent by health boards directly to the GDC when many could be resolved at local level.
Now, Chief Dental Officer, Margie Taylor, has told Scottish Dental magazine that she intends to bring together representatives from the BDA, indemnity organisations, health boards and the GDC to plan a new way forward.
We feel that there are a lot of inappropriate referrals in the absence of a local mechanism
Ms Taylor explained: “If practitioners get themselves into difficulty, then we want to pick this up early before it is a problem for them and definitely before it’s a problem for patients. So what I’m discussing with colleagues just now is how we bring that about. We want the cases that come before the GDC to be the ones that should be there.
“If we can put in place some other method for dealing with cases at board level then that would be preferable.”
Ms Taylor said that she recognised how traumatic an appearance before the GDC can be for dentists while also recognising the vital role that is played by the regulator.
But, she argued, there is a need to look much further back in the process, and to change the emphasis of the debate.
“I would describe it as a ‘quality continuum’ in which you move the debate from discipline and punishment to helping practitioners to maintain quality. So it’s a much more positive statement, it’s about preventing people getting into difficulty,” she said.
The BDA has been pressing for action. Director for Scotland Pat Kilpatrick said she had raised the issue with the CDO six months ago.
She said: “There was a circular sent out 2010/11, setting up local disciplinary committees to deal with matters locally, but health boards have never really used these local disciplinary committees because they say that they don’t have the expertise and they don’t have the people. I don’t really understand why they have never taken place. We have found that NHS boards are now, in the absence of any local resolution, just referring cases straight to the GDC.
“So, we feel that there are a lot of inappropriate referrals in the absence of a local mechanism.”
Ms Taylor said that she could not place a timescale on when the new process would be operational.