Coming clean

One evening, a dentist was arrested while under the influence of cocaine which resulted in her being reported to the GDC by the police. In due course, the dentist received a letter from the GDC, advising her that the matter was going to be considered by an investigating committee. Her professional reputation and career now on the line, she called the DDU.

At once, the DDU adviser instructed a solicitor to prepare a ‘letter of observations’ setting out the background to the referral and the steps the dentist had taken since then to overcome her addiction, including a self-arranged admission to a rehab clinic. The investigating committee referred the matter to the GDC’s health committee, where the dentist was represented by a barrister. The health committee concluded that her fitness to practise was impaired and imposed a long list of conditions which included abstaining from the use of illegal drugs completely, limiting the amount of alcohol consumed as advised by her medical supervisor, regular medical assessment, random and unannounced drugs testing including testing of hair samples, as well as provision of regular reports to the GDC from a workplace colleague regarding her performance. The conditions were imposed for a period of 12 months.

At the review hearing the following year, the legal team submitted that she had complied with the conditions. However, her continuing fondness for consuming more alcohol than the GDC’s medical advisers recommended, prompted the GDC to impose conditions for a further 12 months. This time the list of conditions was smaller and less onerous.

Again, the dentist was compliant with the conditions and reduced her alcohol intake further. At a second review hearing, her barrister was able to persuade the health committee that she no longer required any conditions against her registration. The health committee revoked all conditions and concluded the case.

 Health problems can affect a dental professional’s ability to work. Dental professionals have an ethical obligation to seek appropriate medical advice, and limit their practice in the best interests of patients. At the GDC, showing insight into and taking action to remediate health issues is essential. This can help avoid a more serious sanction such as suspension or erasure. Conditions are reviewed at regular intervals by the GDC. If a dental professional can demonstrate that their fitness to practise is no longer impaired, the conditions should be lifted.

These are fictional cases compiled from actual cases in the MDU’s files.

This page was correct at publication on 01/08/2012. Any guidance 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.