The results of the General Dental Council's (GDC) consultation relating to the 'Rule 4' process by which dental professionals have an opportunity to submit their comments on concerns that have been raised are in and from February a nine-month pilot will begin. As part of the pilot:
- Registrants will be able to apply for a 14 day extension to the current 28 day deadline to provide their comments in cases relating to single patient clinical concerns, where no other fitness to practise matters are being actively considered; and
- the GDC will disclose Clinical Assessment Reports (CAR) earlier, to facilitate the efficient preparation of Registrant's comments.
While the pilot is to be welcomed it is disappointing that the option to apply for an extension is limited to cases involving single patient clinical concerns. As set out in our response to the GDC's consultation we remain of the view that extensions would be more appropriate in multi-factorial cases where one or more investigation is running, to allow for any procedural issues to be resolved.
Subject to a successful pilot our hope is that the ability to formally apply for an extension will be extended to apply to all cases.
In the meantime, we welcome the GDC's decision to disclose CAR earlier. However, if the GDC wants to facilitate the efficient preparation of Registrants’ comments and minimise the time cases are held in the Fitness to Practise process, we remain of the view that the best way to do this is to provide full and detailed allegations to Registrants when seeking their comments at the 'Rule 4' stage. Therefore, removing the need for Registrants to interrogate the CAR themselves in the hope that they identify and provide a substantive response to the concerns raised and greatly assisting Registrants without representation who must navigate the fitness to practise process alone.
While we welcome the GDC's pilot, we hope that in time the option to formally apply for an extension to the time to provide comments will be extended to all cases and that, in turn, the early disclosure of the CAR is followed up with the further and better particularisation of the allegations against Registrants to facilitate the efficient preparation of Registrants’ comments.
Rebecca Gowling, Associate, BLM