Dentists suspended for sharing and plagiarising SEAs

14 October, 2019 / infocus

Copied content was detected with software used by universities to check students’ work

Five dentists in Scotland have been suspended by the General Dental Council (GDC) for sharing or copying Significant Event Analysis Reports (SEAs) submitted to NHS Education for Scotland (NES) as part of their requirement to meet the terms of service for working in the NHS.

A practice owner has been suspended for six months for sharing with four others content from his SEAs covering the 2010-2013 and 2013-2016 audit cycles. He appeared before the GDC’s Professional Conduct Committee in July facing nine charges. Three were proved, three were not proved and three were admitted.

In its ruling, the committee said that the sharing of two of the SEAs was “motivated by the potentially devastating financial impact that the prospect of [another registrant’s] non-compliance with NHS Education for Scotland’s audit cycle requirements would have on your business interests”.

It added: “The committee finds that this conduct would be considered by your fellow practitioners to be deplorable and that your dishonest conduct is likely to have brought the standing and reputation of the profession into disrepute.

“Your serious misconduct is also likely to have undermined the trust and confidence that the public places in the profession and in the systems intended to regulate the profession. Your conduct constitutes a serious departure from a fundamental tenet of the profession, namely the need to act with honesty and integrity.”

The dentist’s reinstatement is subject to review and the committee recommended that he prepares a “reflective statement regarding your conduct and how your dishonesty affects your fitness to practise and public perceptions of the profession. The reviewing committee might also be assisted by evidence of practical steps that you have taken to address and remedy your dishonesty”.

Three of the dentists were suspended for periods of between seven and nine months, with their reinstatement being subject to review. A fifth dentist was suspended for three months but the committee ruled that it was not necessary to review the suspension before its expiry. None of the dentists was suspended immediately and their suspensions are due to take effect after the appeal period.

NES used the same software that universities employ to check students’ work, although it is understood that its use in this context is not currently routine. Helen Kaney, Head of Dental Services, Scotland, at Dental Protection, commented: “Plagiarism poses a great risk to a clinician’s career and professional reputation. It is essential to make sure that all work submitted, whatever the type and in whatever capacity, is your own and properly-referenced. Dentists must be in no doubt that copying another’s work is considered by the regulator to be dishonest conduct.”

Read our feature, Plagiarism and how to avoid being accused.

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