Fitness to Practice Solicitors for Dentists
For those practising as dental professionals, being the subject of an investigation by the General Dental Council (GDC) can be extremely stressful and upsetting. The outcome of such an investigation can have a hugely detrimental effect on your ability to earn a living and to continue to run your practice. For these reasons and many more, having the support of an experienced team of solicitors who are entirely dedicated to providing legal services for dental professionals is vital. Contact a member of our team today.
What is meant by ‘fitness to practice'?
A code of conduct has been published by the GDC, known as the ‘Standards of the Dental Team'. This is available on the GDC's website and can be downloaded for free. This document details the GDC's standards for conduct, performance and ethics for dental professionals and is used as the basis for fitness to practice investigations, with reference made to these standards during the investigation process.
The code is divided into sections which address the following issues:
- Principles: the core ethical principles of practice
- Patient expectations: what patients can expect from their dental team
- Standards: what registrants must do to ensure the expectations of patients are met
- Guidance: how registrants should meet these standards
While issues around fitness to practice are most likely during the time that a dentist is carrying out their work, in some cases the GDC will carry out investigations into conduct that takes place out with a dentist's professional life. The GDC recognises that dentists are respected members of the community and have a responsibility to that they are worthy of this level of trust. As such, conduct that demonstrates a lack of integrity of or that a dentist may be unwilling to practise ethically may result in an investigation by the GDC.
What types of conduct will the GDC look into as part of a fitness to practice investigation?
Each investigation is different, but conduct that falls into the following categories are likely to lead to a GDC investigation:
- Criminal convictions or cautions
- Practising without indemnity insurance
- Practising out of scope
- Allegations of dishonest behaviour
- Substance misuse
How we support clients who are subject to investigations by the GDC into their fitness to practice
If you are informed that the GDC is planning to investigate your conduct, it is essential to seek legal advice immediately. Instructing a solicitor with experience in representing clients who are subject to GDC investigations at the outset will help to protect your position and conduct the most robust defence possible. Our lawyers have many years of experience in this role. In some cases, we have been able to demonstrate that there are no grounds for an investigation by the GDC, concluding matters swiftly and straightforwardly. In cases where this is not possible, our solicitors will take a strategic and innovative approach throughout the investigation process and at any future hearings.
Our solicitors can:
- Represent and advise you throughout GDC investigations and hearings
- Make written representations on your behalf
- Correspond with other parties as required, for example with the Investigation Committee
- Collect and prepare evidence as part of your defence
- Assess and analyse the strength of the disciplinary case and advise you accordingly
- Provide representation at hearings which may be held for an interim order restricting your ability to practice
- Lodge an appeal to the High Court on your behalf
How long will a GDC fitness to practice investigation take?
When a complaint is made, the GDC aim to carry out their investigation and refer the case to the GDC Investigating Committee, if required, within six months of receiving the initial complaint. The Investigating Committee has the power to refer a dentist for a GDC fitness to practice hearing in front of one of their committees. If this happens, it can take a further nine months for the investigation to be completed.
Contact our solicitors
Our lawyers can provide clear, sympathetic advice from the earliest stage of a fitness to practice investigation. As matters progress, we will always keep you up-to-date with any developments and changes, so you are fully informed throughout. Whatever your circumstances, you can be assured of comprehensive and robust legal representation from the lawyers at Goodman Grant.