The Registrant’s Choice – Clyde & Co’s views on the GDC’s Consultation on the Format of Hearings

  • Market Insight 22 February 2024 22 February 2024
  • UK & Europe

  • Healthcare

Clyde & Co’s National Healthcare Team has responded to the General Dental Council’s recent consultation on the Format of Hearings, encouraging the GDC to consider and pay particular attention to the registrant’s preference as a key factor when considering whether to hold an in-person hearing.

The consultation proposes that the default position should be for all GDC Practice Committees (including Professional Conduct Committee hearings) and Registration Appeals Committee Hearings to be held remotely, but providing for a process whereby requests for hearings to be held in-person will be ‘considered and decided fairly.’ 

It is also proposed that Interim Orders Committee hearings will continue to be held remotely; however, due to the urgent nature of these proceedings we agree with the proposal that these should automatically switch to an in-person hearing if the registrant involved requests this. 

In the response to the consultation, Clyde & Co emphasised that the key and overriding consideration for any merits-based assessment for an in-person hearing should be the preference of the registrant under investigation and this should be enshrined into the GDC’s guidance surrounding the format of hearings. Lee Biddle, a Legal Director in the London Healthcare team, said “the purpose of a Practice Committee hearing is to consider and determine a registrant’s fitness to practise; it is their reputation and registration at risk with the potential for the hearing to have a profound impact upon a registrant’s career therefore their choice of hearing format should be a key consideration.”

Clyde & Co state that further clarification is needed within the proposed guidance to ensure a greater degree of fairness, as it is too heavily focused on practical considerations rather than a more tailored case-by-case based assessment to include the preference of the registrant. With all GDC hearings being held in-person before the pandemic, we consider it unseemly that a dental professional may have to battle against their regulator for an in-person hearing if it does not meet one of the predefined practical limitations, before the substantive hearing has even commenced. 

Ultimately, the cost savings of remote hearings for the GDC should be secondary to a registrant’s choice to appear in-person at a hearing before their professional regulator to determine their professional status and this should be a key factor identified in the current proposals but which is conspicuously absent. Only then, in our view, can fairness be maintained throughout an often long and gruelling process.

We await the GDC’s response to the consultation process.

The GDC’s consultation on the Format of Hearings closed on 15 February 2024.


Additional authors:

Jodie Daly

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