Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, Head of the DDU

This month, the GDC's new ethical guidance, Standards for the Dental Team, comes into effect and by now you will all have received a copy.

The new guidance is more specific than Standards for Dental Professionals and affects areas of dental practice that it did not reach. This is a positive step because in our experience dental professionals want to do the right thing, so they appreciate more information about what is expected of them by the regulator. Indeed, when the GDC reviewed the previous guidance it was criticised in the online questionnaire for being 'too vague in parts, ambiguous and [lacking] detail'.

Standards for the Dental Team takes a more prescriptive approach, setting out the core principles of dental practice, what patients expect from the dental team, the standards that all dental professionals must reach, and providing guidance on how this should be achieved. It warns that failure to meet the standards and 'serious or persistent failure' to follow the guidance could see you removed from the register.

In my experience, most dental professionals strive to work in accordance with established practice and guidance but this should not prevent you from applying your own experience, skill or judgment; nor can guidance be expected to cover every eventuality in dental practice. 

While you have an ethical duty to 'provide good quality care based on current evidence and authoritative guidance', the GDC accepts there may be exceptional situations where it is necessary to deviate from this. This is not a decision to be taken lightly and ignorance of guidelines would be difficult to defend but a reasoned decision to depart from them in the best interests of a patient, backed by detailed, contemporaneous records, may be justified. However, we would strongly advise you to discuss the matter with a colleague or seek our advice before taking such a step.

Equally, there will always be finely balanced situations in dental practice, such as when assessing someone's mental capacity, when even the most experienced practitioner may be unsure of the most ethical path to tread. Again, if you are in doubt about how to proceed in the patient's best interests, it's worth remembering that our experienced dento-legal advisers are always available to discuss your concerns and to provide you with guidance, advice and support.

You can read more about Standards for the Dental Team and what it means for you in our main feature. Elsewhere in this issue we have an illuminating analysis of recent complaints reported by members and of course we have our usual mix of case studies and dilemmas which draw on the experiences of members.

I hope you enjoy reading this edition of your Journal.

Rupert Hoppenbrouwers
Head of the DDU

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This guidance was correct at publication . It 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.


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