Pace of regulation reform ‘disappointing’
Steps towards the reform of legislation that underpins the UK’s health and care professional regulators were taken today, as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) set out its direction on the issue.
The General Dental Council (GDC) welcomed “this important milestone” but said it was “extremely disappointed by the timetable.”
The UK Government first consulted on reforms to healthcare professional regulation in 2017, and
again in 2021, setting out proposals for a new, consistent and modernised framework.
The consultation outcomes released today recognise the need to update legislation that has not been significantly reformed for decades, but set out an approach which, says the GDC, will not see full reform of the legislation governing its role “for years to come”.
The GDC has long pushed for a flexible and modernised regulatory framework and said that it was “good to see that progress now being made”, but that it was frustrated by “the absence of any clear timetable for reform. ”
Alongside the 2021 consultation results, the DHSC has today released proposals for regulations for the General Medical Council (GMC) that will apply to physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs). These will be considered as a template for future reform for other regulators, including the GDC.
The GDC urged stakeholders to review the outcomes to the 2021 consultation, and to consider the proposed framework for the two new associate titles to be regulated by the GMC. “While it may be challenging to see how the proposal will apply to dentistry, close examination and views from stakeholders will help to shape future reform programme proposals for the GDC,” it said in a statement.
In the absence of proposals for wider reforms, the GDC said it will be focused on changes to the international registration process and making performance improvements in fitness to practise, as set out in its Corporate Strategy 2023–2025.
Stefan Czerniawski, GDC Executive Director, Strategy, said: “We welcome the publication of the Government’s proposals for the next steps in regulatory reform.
“But we are extremely disappointed by the timetable set out by DHSC, as fundamental reform of our
legislation still appears to be years away at best. The current legislative framework is a real barrier to efficient, effective and proportionate regulation and the need for reform is urgent.
“We think the reform programme needs to go faster, in the interests of the public and patients, and of
the dental professionals we regulate.”
The Dental Defence Union (DDU) also expressed disappointment at the Government announcement confirming that the General Dental Council (GDC) is not one of the healthcare regulators to be prioritised for reform.
John Makin, head of the DDU, said: “It is disappointing that the Department of Health and Social Care has put the GDC well down the list of regulators that will be given the powers it needs to reform regulation.
“We’ve repeatedly pointed out that dental professionals across the UK deserve to know that if they face the stress of a fitness to practise investigation, their regulator will be working to a modern, proportionate, and timely process. Currently, the GDC is operating under outdated legislation that disadvantages the profession, patients and the GDC itself.
“Last year, the MDU, the DDU’s parent company, coordinated a letter with other healthcare leaders to the Secretary of State for Health, calling on the government not to delay fundamental reforms needed to modernise the regulators.
“We urge the Department of Health and Social Care to publish the legislation needed to modernise dental professional regulation. A fitness to practise process is one of the most stressful experiences a dental professional can have in their career, and current legislation is crying out for change.”