COVID-19: GDC guidance for dental professionals
These are difficult and worrying times for us all as we navigate the many challenges we face and try to develop good solutions to problems as they emerge.
The absence of immediate certainty understandably will lead to frustration and concern and, for
our part, we are working to minimise this wherever we can.
In the absence of immediate answers, please know that we are being guided by two main principles. When developing our approach, we are seeking to:
- minimise the regulatory burden on dental professionals wherever possible
- maximise flexibility for dental professionals to manage their professional activities in response to the challenges of COVID-19.
Your professional judgement and our approach to regulation
Expert advice on the clinical aspects of COVID-19 will continue to come from the health authorities of the four nations and we will continue to signpost to this guidance as and when it is updated. But that guidance will inevitably not cover every potential scenario, and therefore, dental professionals will need to continue exercising their professional judgement and weigh the risks in any given situation. They will also need to continue to assess whether they are trained, competent and indemnified to carry out the activity in question.
However, in the joint statement from the healthcare regulators we said that we understand that in highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures to care for patients and that should concerns be raised, relevant environmental and human factors would be taken into account.
Continuing professional development
We recognise that access to CPD has been hindered this year by COVID-19 control measures. If you have been affected, please be reassured that you will not be penalised. During this year’s Annual Renewal you will be asked to make your annual or end of cycle CPD statement in the normal way, even if you have not met all of the requirements because of COVID-19.
If you’re a dentist we expect you to do your utmost to meet CPD requirements before the 31 December deadline, because of the important role CPD plays in patient safety and public confidence. However, if this proves not to be possible for reasons related to COVID-19, we take the exceptional circumstances into account and will not penalise you.
You can find out how many CPD hours you need to do this year by logging into your eGDC account. Please also remember that there is some flexibility already built into the Enhanced CPD scheme:
- if you did 10 hours of CPD last year, you could make a zero-hours statement this year, or
- if you think you could make-up your shortfall with a very short extension, you could apply for a grace period in writing before the 31 December.
Visit the Enhanced CPD scheme pages for more information on CPD rules. Or if you have questions particular to your circumstances, or you don’t think you will be able to make a CPD statement this year, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for dental professionals
Resuscitation Council (UK) recommends cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for dental teams. Their document Quality Standards: Primary Dental Care states:
“Dental practitioners and other dental healthcare staff should update their knowledge and skills in resuscitation at least annually.”
In this joint statement with Care Quality Commission, we recognise that COVID-19 social distancing can make accessing accredited training difficult. This includes Basic Life Support (BLS) and Immediate Life Support (ILS).
Providers and individual dental professionals should continue to make every effort to complete accredited BLS/ILS training annually. However, if this training is unavailable due to current COVID-19 restrictions, appropriate alternative provisions, in accordance with relevant government guidance, should be made.
- Self-directed study.
- Team-based scenario training in the clinical environment.
Records and evidence of efforts made to access training and to update CPR knowledge and skills should be maintained.
Information for students
Thousands of students will have been due to complete their professional training over the coming months, before registering with the GDC.
Teaching and assessments have been severely disrupted, but we have been working with education providers to ensure that as many students as possible can still have a smooth transition into practice.
We, and they, have prepared a joint statement setting out our shared approach which we recommend all students and recent graduates read.
Our approach to fitness to practise
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in every aspect of society, and fitness to practise is no exception to this.
With regards to new issues, people will continue to have legitimate concerns and it’s important that they are able to raise them with us. If they do, we are under a legal duty to investigate.
We will continue to record and make a risk assessment of new fitness to practise concerns, as well as continuing to progress new and existing cases as far as we can.
Where we perceive an immediate risk to patient safety, urgent hearings are being run remotely using video conference facilities. In addition, where appropriate and with the agreement of all parties concerned, or after it has been agreed by the Committee, we may also hold hearings which were previously adjourned part way through or those which are deemed suitable for hearing remotely.
From the middle of September 2020, we will hold a very small number of hearings in person at our London headquarters, however we will continue to hold most hearings remotely.
You can find out more about remote hearings in our guidance and frequently asked questions.
The Overseas Registration Exam (ORE)
As a result of the safety restrictions brought in as part of the COVID-19 response, it was necessary to suspend Parts 1 and 2 of the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) earlier this year. Our aim is to resume the ORE as soon as it is safe and viable to do so.
The law requires the GDC to appoint a dental authority to run the ORE on its behalf. Through ongoing work and discussions with our exam providers, it is now clear that due to the continuing COVID-19 restrictions, it will not be practicable to run any sittings of the exams in 2020.
Candidates who booked a place on the cancelled April exams may wish to request a refund and return to the candidate list in the interim.
We also know that there are some candidates who have either now exceeded the five-year time limit between Part 1 and Part 2, or shortly will. We will be in contact once the future ORE schedule is confirmed.
In the meantime, regular discussions with our exam providers continue, and we will provide further information as soon as it is available.
Remote consulting and prescribing
Where patients cannot go to a dental surgery, you may be asked to provide advice remotely and to work with patients to defer the need for active treatment through the use of pain control and antimicrobial treatment.
The 10 high-level principles of remote consultation and prescribing, developed jointly with the other healthcare regulators, continue to apply and in the current crisis the key requirement is to make an appropriate clinical risk assessment.
Remote prescribing protocol can be found in NHS England's COVID-19 guidance and standard operating procedure.