The Professional Standards Authority (‘PSA’) for Health and Social Care oversees the nine statutory bodies that regulate health professionals in the United Kingdom and social care in England.
The PSA are an independent body who are accountable to parliament and help to monitor and improve the protection of the public. They use performance reviews to question the regulators they oversee about their work and encourage them to improve the way they register and regulate health and care practitioners.
The PSA carried out a review of the General Dental Council (‘GDC’), who regulate 111,128 dental professionals, and assessed them against the PSA’s Standards of Good Regulation. The PSA reported that the GDC had met all but one standard in this year’s review.
The PSA found improvements had been made in the way in which the GDC handles registration appeals, following an increase in appeals in recent years. The PSA found that the GDC has reviewed and changed its registration appeals process which in turn has reduced the time taken for appeals to resolve; this is now averaging three months instead of five. Another focus of the review was on the GDC’s continuing professional development (CPD) scheme which is due to come into effect in 2018. The PSA have raised concerns with the length of time it is taking for the GDC to implement the new scheme as the draft rules were originally agreed in 2013. However, the PSA consider that the existing scheme ensures that registrants maintain their fitness to practise and as such, this standard is met.
Fitness to practise procedures were also reviewed by the PSA. They noted improvements had been made in response to the PSA’s concerns raised in last year’s review, that it was taking the GDC too long to make decisions about interim orders. They found that the GDC are making decisions more quickly and saw evidence that they continue to maintain improvement in the timeliness of its case progression. However, the GDC did not meet the standard which relates to information security for a second year. In the previous review period the PSA found that the standard was not met due to three serious data breaches relating to information about fitness to practise cases. The GDC had also had to carry out further work following an undertaking it had given to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
In this review period the PSA found that the GDC had reported one serious data breach to the ICO and whilst this was fewer than the previous review period, the PSA considered the fact that such breaches continue to occur highlights the need for the GDC to have robust systems in place. The PSA found that the GDC have made slow progress in development a new information government framework and that this was of some concern. The GDC explained to the PSA that it intends to start measuring compliance with the NHS information governance toolkit, which is aligned with the international standards for information management, later in 2017, but this programme of work had not yet started at the time of the PSA’s review. The PSA commented that some steps had been taken by the GDC despite this and noted that they had appointed a dedicated information governance team.