The results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the General Dental Council (GDC) by Dental Protection demonstrate how important it is for dental professionals to have legal and dentolegal support when faced with GDC proceedings.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of dentists erased from the register following a GDC hearing in 2018 did not have any legal representation. In contrast, 9 in 10 dentists (92%) were found not to be impaired in their Fitness To Practice (FTP) had legal representation when they appeared before the GDC. They continued to practise without any sanction.
This data emphasises the need for dentists to be supported by a dental defence organisation that will protect their interests before the GDC.
Dental Protection regularly defends members on a wide range of matters, providing a significant level of support from experienced dentolegal consultants and representation from lawyers specialising in supporting members in FTP cases.
Dental Protection assists members on different matters including personal conduct matters at GDC hearings. It is not unusual for the cost of defending a dentist at a hearing to amount to just under £100,000 when a GDC investigation leads to a hearing.
Having specialist legal representation is important throughout all stages of an investigation and not just for the hearing. Early engagement with the team of specialist advisers at Dental Protection will often mean that hearings, or even warnings, may be avoided altogether. This could also involve bringing legal proceedings against the GDC on behalf of a member. For instance, in late 2018, Dental Protection brought Judicial Review proceedings against the GDC’s decision to issue a warning to a Dental Protection member who had committed a minor driving offence. In this case, Dental Protection successfully argued that a GDC warning would be a disproportionate and unfair sanction by the regulator in these circumstances.
Other defence organisations or insurers may decline assistance to a dentist where it is a personal conduct matter. This would mean that the dentist would have had to pay personally for this legal support and the cost can be prohibitively expensive.
Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “These figures released by the GDC show just how important it is to have a good defence team if you are the subject of a GDC investigation.
“Dental Protection regularly supports dentists before the GDC and we know how disturbing it can be. The investigation process can be lengthy and very distressing for dentists who fear that their reputation and professional livelihood can be at stake. This is the reason why Dental Protection supports dentists throughout all stages of a GDC investigation including the hearing by providing the best possible legal support from our team which includes experienced dento-legal consultants, expert lawyers, and other professionals who are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for our members and providing the highest service standards.”