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What can the GDC do to change the fear younger dentists feel?

Blog Author Lauren Harrhy

Blog Date 15/10/2019

Lauren Harry on stage at the myDentist conference

On my way home from the recent MyDentist conference, I reflected on my experience: I met some wonderful people and sat on a panel discussion about the future of dentistry, and what challenges we face when planning the workforce.

The panel discussion was interesting but not ground-breaking, many of these facts and figures and speculations have been widely aired on social media for some time.

What I found particularly interesting was:

1. Speaking to the MyDentist associates and hearing many very positive stories as well as some not so positive ones

2. Having a good long chat to Ian Brack, Chief Executive of the GDC about the palpable fear that is felt amongst registrants, whether registering dental nurses has benefited them as a group or the GDC as an organisation, the debacle that is currently raging in South Wales as more than 55 nurses were stripped of their City&Guilds qualifications (the fault of the training company, not the nurses!) and thus erased from the register overnight, the FTP process and the life-changing and/or life-ending amounts of pressure that puts on registrants that are enduring it and the high prevalence of blue-on-blue vexatious cases that get so far through the GDC processes.

We also discussed the fact that the sanctions imposed by the FTP panels are not fair and equitable and what can be done to improve that situation.

I warned Mr Brack that many VTEs are being poorly treated and without proper pathways to get them into supportive positions, which must compromise their mental wellbeing, as well as their ability to provide the best patient care. 

Many of my questions were answered with the stock answer I’ve heard often before, “…our hands are tied by law and secondary legislation.”

But my answer to this always “…so what are you doing about it? Are you working on changing it?”

He says that they are, and he said he encourages registrants to write to their MPs to make moves to change the restrictive legislation that means that the GDC must use a “nuclear bomb” to deal with minor infringements.

I have suggested that GDC staff, the majority of whom have no idea what it means to be a registered healthcare professional, should visit practices and meet registrants in their own working environments, to help them gain a better understanding of the challenges we face daily, and the high level of care the vast majority of us offer those who put their considerable trust in us.

Another suggestion I made was that the FTP process must be made transparent and widely known to remove the “unknown” factor, we should know what happens next once the letter is received, there should be approximate timescales for the next steps, and the next communication.

I told Mr Brack some stories that have touched my own life, cases that have affected colleagues who are local to me. I told him how intimidated I had felt when I visited the GDC as a VT and the fact that the hearing the day after that visit was that of a local colleague who took his own life shortly after.

He also acknowledged the huge impact the poor NHS system has on the morale of clinicians.

I do feel that there hope and that things are changing, very, very slowly. But there is much work to be done. I am hearing positive cases coming through but there are still those cases that leave you open-mouthed in despair.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this long post! 

As always, feel free to contact me to discuss anything, or if you are finding the pressure too much and want to talk then please call the Confidential helpline, or seek support from one of the other services out there – you don’t have to suffer alone. 

Lauren Harrhy, practice owner and principal dentist

Vice-Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, member of the General Dental Practice Committee and BDA Young Dentist Committee member.

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