General Dental Council (GDC) Solicitors
Defence Lawyers for Dentists
At Clifford Johnston Solicitors, we appreciate the stress that an investigation by the General Dental Council can cause and the significant impact it can have on you and your career.
We also understand the sacrifice and work that has gone into building up a practice and you can be assured that our GDC Lawyers have the expertise and experience to guide you through the process with a clear vision to protect your reputation, livelihood, and to keep you in practice.
Our regulatory law and professional discipline solicitors are based in Stockport and Manchester, but can represent Dentists nationwide from receipt of the initial complaint through to any GDC Hearings and Appeals.
It is vital that you seek representation quickly, but more importantly that you choose the right GDC Solicitor for you. With years of experience in professional discipline, our dedicated GDC Lawyers will work hand in hand with you to provide you with a fully tailored service to robustly defend any allegations that seek to blemish your reputation.
The General Dental Council (GDC)
The General Dental Council is an independent regulatory body, established in 1956, designed to regulate dental professionals to protect the reputation of the profession and the health and safety of the public. It not only regulates clinical practice but the professional as a person, so can cover allegations concerning the private lives of dental practitioners.
Complaints to the GDC can be made by patients, other dental professionals, the police or NHS.
Dental care professionals include
- Clinical Dental Technicians;
- Dental Hygienists;
- Dental Nurses;
- Dental Technicians;
- Dental Therapists;
- Orthodontic Therapists
Initial Screening Process
The GDC will conduct an initial screening process to decide whether the complaint amounts to an allegation of impaired fitness to practice. These investigations can be based on impairment due to; misconduct, adverse physical or mental health, deficient professional performance or criminal conduct.
If the matter passes the initial screening process the case is passed to the Investigation Committee.
The GDC usually interview the person making the complaint and obtain statements from employers and colleagues.
Once the GDC caseworker obtains all the relevant information, the case will be referred to a Case Examiner. The Case Examiners consist of one lay person and one dentist or dental care professional. They consider all the evidence and decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the allegation and if proved whether the professional’s ability to practice would be effected.
It is at this stage that you will be invited to provide a written response to the allegation and a time frame of four weeks is usually given. A response is not mandatory and the decision whether to respond depends on the individual case. This is a tactical decision dependant on many factors which you should discuss with our GDC Lawyers.
In making their decision, the Case Examiners consider:
- Whether there is real prospect of the facts, as alleged, being found proved
- Whether there is a real prospect of the statutory ground being established
- Whether there is a real prospect of a finding of current impairment being made.
The Case Examiners have the power to take no further action in relation to the matter and, therefore, we advise anyone who has received a referral to seek independent legal advice from specialist GDC solicitors to ensure that any such response is strategically discussed and drafted by an experienced GDC Lawyer to give you the best possible chance going forward.
Upon consideration of all the evidence, the Case Examiners have the following powers:
- Take no further action
- Issue a letter of advice
- Issue a warning
- Direct that the warning is published on the GDC website
- Refer the case to the interim orders committee
- Request that an undertaking is signed
- Refer the case to one of the three GDC Practice Committees, namely the Professional Conduct Committee, the Professional Performance Committee or the Health Committee.
GDC Hearings are conducted by one of their three committees:
- The Professional Conduct Committee
- The Health Committee
- The Professional Performance Committee
The GDC determines the case on the balance of probabilities. This means that the committee must find that each individual charge is more likely than not to be true.
The decision-making process is in three parts:
Factual inquiry – at this stage the Committee hears evidence and must decide whether it finds the facts alleged to be proved or not.
Submissions – if some or all the facts are found proved, the Committee will hear submissions from both parties regarding whether, in the light of the facts found proved, the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what action the party recommends should be taken by the Committee.
Impairment can only be found based on one or more of the statutory grounds, which include misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, convictions, cautions and certain other determinations by other bodies. Misconduct must be “serious” in order for that ground to be met; deficient professional performance involves an unacceptably low standard of professional performance, and will normally only be found if there is evidence of such low standard based upon review of a fair sample of the registrant’s work.
Determination – the Committee must then decide whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what action, if any, it should take.
At such a hearing, we can ensure that you are represented by an experienced GDC barrister. As a team, we will scrutinise the evidence, present evidence on your behalf, call witnesses and make full representations to vigorously defend the case.
The sanctions available to the Committee are:
- to issue a reprimand;
- imposing conditions with which the registrant must comply for a period not exceeding three years;
- suspension for a period not exceeding twelve months; or
- to direct that the person’s name be erased from the register.
A Dental professional can appeal against a decision made by the GDC, however this must be done within 28 days. If highly exceptional circumstances exist the Court may agree to waive this time frame, however this is a rarity and thus the time frame should be strictly adhered to.
The High Court will ordinarily order the losing party to pay the other party’s legal costs and therefore it is essential that legal advice is sought, regarding the merits of any such appeal, before an appeal is lodged.
The Appeal process is both time and cost sensitive and thus we advise you to contact our specialist GDC Lawyers as soon as is possible.
How can we help?
Our GDC solicitors can help and advise you on all stages of a GDC investigation; from receipt of the initial complaint, the processes of the Investigating Committee, to the Practice Committee and any GDC hearings and appeals.
We will work tirelessly to protect your career and livelihood by:
- Preparing and drafting a written response during the initial investigation stage
- Collating evidence during the initial investigative stage
- Preparing written representations and evidence against the imposition of any interim orders
- Advising on the GDC investigatory process
- Considering witness statements and exhibits relied upon by the GDC
- Representing you before the GDC Practice Committees
- Advising on appeals against GDC decisions
- Representing you before the High Court in respect of any Appeal
Why choose us?
Our GDC Lawyers will work tirelessly to defend you against any allegation of professional misconduct. Clients come to us when they have been referred to their regulatory body and we ensure that we attend to their needs and adopt our strategy to deliver the best results for them.
We have the relevant expertise and experience to robustly defend you when your suitability to be a dentist is called into question.
With over 35 years of experience of defending clients in regulatory investigations, we are leading GDC Investigation Defence Lawyers in Manchester and Stockport.
Contact our Solicitors for Dentists today for free consultation.