GDC investigationThe number of dentists concerned about a GDC investigation following the COVID-19 pandemic has jumped, a survey shows.

Around 40% of dental professionals report fearing a GDC investigation is having the biggest impact on their mental health. Concerns have jumped 33% from when Dental Protection asked the same questions in May this year.

It has caused the defence union to call on the GDC and the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to take action.

‘Dental professionals tell us there are a range of issues impacting on their mental wellbeing; from concern for the health of family, friends and colleagues, through to loss of income,’ Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, says.

‘But we are particularly concerned to see that fear of regulatory investigation due to COVID-19 disruption has increased since we surveyed our members back in May.

‘Dentists remain focused on looking after their patients and providing high quality care. Concerns about the prospect of unfair action against them for decisions taken in circumstances beyond their control is an unnecessary distraction. It only exacerbates the stress that many are experiencing at this time.’

GDC response

In September, the GMC issued specific guidance for its staff to follow when dealing with complaints following  COVID-19.

Dental Protection is now urging the GDC to follow suit and reassure its registrants.

It added the prospect of an investigation is taking its toll on dentists’ mental wellbeing. It therefore hopes regulators can do more to reassure dentists.

John Cullinane, GDC executive director, fitness to practise transition, spoke out in response.

‘In March of this year we, along with the other professional health and care regulators, made a commitment that environmental and human factors relating to COVID-19 would be taken into account in fitness to practise investigations and we stand by that commitment as we have throughout,’ he said.

‘We continue to make this clear in all our discussions with stakeholders. It is disappointing that any of them would imply there is cause for concern.

‘This has been, and continues to be a challenging time. We all have a shared interest in providing reassurance that professional judgements will always be looked at in the context in which they were made.

‘As long as professionals assess risk appropriately – and make professional judgements accordingly – there should be no reason for concern. Our fitness to practise decision makers are also aware of our commitment. We continue to review our guidance to them to ensure they have a lasting point of reference.’