The leading protection organisation for dentists has said it is “disappointed and concerned” that the General Dental Council (GDC) is engaging in undercover investigations which are attempting to trick dentists into wrongdoing.
Dental Protection’s concern stems from a 2016 case where it defended a dental technician who was the subject of an anonymous complaint to the GDC that he may be working without registration, due to his laboratory being in a bespoke setting in his home. Two months later the GDC instructed an under-guise operation where two private investigators attended an appointment posing as relatives of an elderly lady “Evelyn” who needed new partial dentures but was very ill and could not attend in person.
The fictitious scenario unfairly attempted to lure the dental technician into doing something against his better judgement on compassionate grounds - but the investigation was also far removed from the original complaint which was about registration.
An Interim Orders Committee concluded that any evidence from the investigation was flawed and unfair, and the GDC Practice Committee halted any further action on grounds that the investigation demonstrated abuse of process. Dental Protection, alongside legal firm BLM, also sought an order against the GDC to recover legal costs, which the GDC conceded in August.
The number of covert investigations undertaken by the GDC has not been established, but a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that it spent a minimum of £15,416 in 2017 alone.
Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “The fact that the GDC is prepared to target its own registrants without a sufficiently justified cause is, in itself, unsettling for dentists. But what I find most concerning and disappointing is the covert nature of the investigation.
“The use of an entirely contrived scenario about a sick pensioner in very difficult circumstances was designed to trigger an emotional response and lure a registrant into acting outside of their scope. This is hardly an ordinary opportunity for wrongdoing, and it is unfair and invasive.
“At Dental Protection, we do not agree with that, and will continue to fight our members’ corner on this issue.”
A spokesperson for the General Dental Council said: “In order to fulfil its statutory function, namely the protection of the public, the GDC investigates complaints or information received in respect of a registrant’s fitness to practise. There are a number of methods open to us in pursuit of this, including the use of external investigators, however this approach is one that is used in exceptional circumstances.
“The GDC has a legal duty to investigate fitness to practise concerns and where we are unable to rely on evidence from an informant – for example where information which represents a potential danger to the public is sent to us anonymously – and where no alternate route is open, this is an option we may exercise.”