It is important for preparation to understand how General Dental Council fitness to practise hearings work and what your rights are.
Once the GDC has completed its investigation and concluded there is likely to be a case of impaired fitness to practise, it will convene one of its practice committees to hear the allegations and make a determination. The GDC’s three practise committees are:
Before proceeding, dentists and other regulated dental professionals must give serious consideration to seeking legal advice and representation as soon as possible when facing GDC fitness to practise investigations and proceedings. It is a well-established fact that, in the majority of cases, early engagement with expert legal advisor results in better outcomes. Expert legal advice will ensure you receive advice on the right strategy and approach, how and when to respond and representation at the various stages of the process such as the GDC’s re-hearing case management process.
You have the right to be represented by a legally qualified representative before a GDC fitness to practise committee.
There is no requirement for dentists or other regulated dental professionals to attend a GDC fitness to practise hearing. Whilst this might be the case, it is not advisable. As I will look at shortly, before a GDC fitness to practise committee, there is opportunity to respond to allegations and answer questions. Without being present, the GDC fitness to practise committee will need to take certain matters as read without a response which, can have negative implications for the outcome of a GDC fitness to practise case.
Engaging and participating in the GDC fitness to practise process is viewed as important and can be relevant to the outcome of a hearing and any subsequent appeal. Under certain circumstances, the GDC fitness to practise committee can agree to adjourn a hearing.
A number of people can potentially take part on a GDC fitness to practise hearing. In addition to the panel and GDC staff (i.e. GDC case presenter, GDC’s legal team, committee secretary etc.) other parties can include witnesses for both sides and members of the public.
The hearing is conducted in two stages:
During the factual inquiry stage, both parties, starting with the representative for the GDC, will have the opportunity to present evidence to the committee. This can be done by providing documents or calling witnesses to give evidence about relevant factual or expert matters.
At the conclusion of this stage, the committee will make its findings of fact. Essentially, it will decide on the balance of probabilities, whether the individual allegations are proved.
Both parties, starting with the representative for the GDC, will have the opportunity to present evidence which is specifically relevant to impairment and sanction.
Submissions are not evidence. They are comments, observations or suggestions for the committee to take into account when considering the outcome of a fitness to practise case.
This can include any extenuating circumstances and testimonials. During submissions, reference may be made to any applicable GDC guidance documents.
The committee will then decide: (a) whether the for dentists or other regulated dental professional’s fitness to practise is impaired, and if so, (b) what sanction, if any, to impose on your registration.
The committee can make the following sanctions:
When deciding what sanction to impose, the GDC fitness to practise committee will always consider the least restrictive options first, and decide if it is appropriate to apply them, before moving onto other orders that are available.
As already mentioned, dentists and other regulated dental professionals must give serious consideration to seeking legal advice and representation as soon as possible when facing GDC fitness to practise investigations and proceedings. In some cases, early engagement with expert legal advice and representation could result in an early resolution to a GDC fitness to practise investigation without the need for a full hearing.
GDC Defence Barrister
I am a leading medical and healthcare defence barrister acting for a range of dental practitioners in all matters relating to their fitness to practise before the General Dental Council (GDC). I represent and advise a range of dental practitioners before the General Dental Council including:
- Dental therapists and dental hygienists
- Dental nurses
- Dental technicians
- Clinical dental technicians
- Orthodontic therapists
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
If you have been notified by the GDC that you’re under investigation or are facing difficulties with your registration, contact me today for an initial free and no obligation consultation on 0207 060 1983 or Stephen.McCaffrey@kingsviewchambers.com.