The General Dental Council (GDC) has published the findings from research designed to help it unlock the potential of GDC fitness to practise data.

Fitness to practise plays an important role in public protection, and the new findings underpin long-term goals for improved timeliness and proportionality. The GDC says it will help progress work to enable learning from the process.

The multi-method research conducted by the University of Plymouth was commissioned to examine the GDC’s fitness to practise data and processes.

Researchers analysed case file data recorded over five years (involving around two per cent of its registrant population), talked to those who work in fitness to practise (both at the GDC and at other healthcare professional regulators) and other key stakeholders. The findings include the results of a review of published evidence on how fitness to practise data is analysed and used to support learning for regulators and stakeholders.

Researchers were able to extract broad themes and considerations from the fitness to practise data, and identify characteristics of dental professionals that are overrepresented data when compared to the registrant population. The findings point to the complexity of cause and effect, as found elsewhere in healthcare professional regulation.

The regulator says it recognises that any analysis of risk is complex, and should not be used in isolation to draw conclusions, as other factors may be relevant.

The findings shared with the GDC will be used to support improved case progression and performance, which has included the development of performance measures and the initial inquiries pilot. The council added that there is more to do before data analysis can be used to infer meaningful learning for sharing with stakeholders and to inform prevention.

The GDC plans to undertake a data maturity assessment to inform improvement priorities and opportunities, including how it might effectively record data to support understanding of considerations, contextual and human factors, and mitigation.

These findings provide key insights that will underpin and give impetus to the work needed to enable meaningful learning and unlock the potential of the GDC’s fitness to practise data.

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