One of our members recently contacted us to express his gratitude for the support and assistance he had received with a GDC matter, and to offer to help in any way that he could to prevent others having to go through the process without first having the chance to handle and resolve a complaint at a local level. He described this as his 'legacy'.

This colleague had endured a lengthy process whereby a patient complained directly to the GDC. The investigating committee considered the matter and the member was initially notified that it would proceed to a full professional conduct committee hearing. Eventually, more than a year from the outset, the matter was referred back to a further investigating committee, and as the GDC's own expert report was supportive of the care and treatment our member had provided, the case was concluded without the need for any further action.

Although a satisfactory outcome, the process itself had had an entirely disproportionate impact on this colleague as well as his family, friends and dental team, all of whom were aware of the issue and were supportive in dealing with this distressing situation.

Naturally we were delighted to hear from this member. The DDU is a mutual not-for-profit organisation, wholly owned by its membership, and our members are our raison d'etre. In addition to supporting our individual members and fighting their corner, we're driven by their wider dento-legal interests, and we work on your behalf to influence the dento-legal climate and make a positive change to the key areas that affect your profession and practice.

In order to achieve these goals we engage with various governmental and external bodies, including, but not limited to, the Department of Health, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS Business Services Authority, Healthwatch England and the GDC. Examples of how we have influenced necessary change include comment and contribution to numerous consultations and working groups on the future of dental regulation, and encouraging the Department of Health to introduce fixed recoverable costs (which would be of benefit in most dental claims) along with legislation that would enable the GDC to change further.

As many of you will be aware the GDC is in the process of amending its fitness to practise procedures and introducing case examiners to the process. The DDU recently contributed to the content of one of the training sessions for the new case examiners, and this included a presentation by me and our head of legal services.

The DDU is a mutual not-for-profit organisation, wholly owned by its membership, and our members are our raison d'etre.

Most importantly, however, was a presentation by the DDU member whose story I have briefly set out above, and whose courageous offer to assist his colleagues going forward I had accepted. He joined us at the GDC on the day and gave a moving account of the impact that the case had had upon him - something I very much hope that the new case examiners will bear in mind as they go about their work in the future. Perhaps this will be his legacy?

That the GDC is consulting and engaging in this way is encouraging, and we are seeing some promising signs that the new leadership intends a more common sense and proportionate approach to its regulatory role. We shall, however, remain vigilant and proactive.

This issue of the DDU journal contains a number of articles around the theme of communication and its importance. You may be assured that going forward we shall continue to do our utmost to communicate with you and for you, to provide you with support, risk management advice and a voice to influence change and protect your interests.

This article was correct at publication on 29/09/2016. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

John Makin

Head of the DDU

John Makin BDS PgDL PgCDE FHEA is head of the DDU. He qualified in Manchester in 1983 and has worked as a general dental practitioner in Lancashire and Devon before joining the DDU as a dento-legal adviser. He was involved with foundation training for many years as both a trainer and VT adviser/training programme director with the Manchester and Exeter DFT schemes. 

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