GDC Legal Representation and Legal Advice for DentistsLegal Representation GDC


We provide legal advice and representation to dentists in legal proceedings at the General Dental Council (GDC). This incudes registration and restoration, and fitness to practise processes. For more information about our legal services and our competitive fees, contact us without obligation and in strict confidence.

For information about registering with the GDC, see our GDC Registration page. For information about applying for restoration, see our Restorations page. Below, we give an overview of fitness to practise processes at the GDC.

Fitness to Practise Investigations at the GDC

The General Dental Council (GDC) brings fitness to practise proceedings against dentists who may have committed misconduct, shown deficiencies in their practice or competence, or are affected by ill-health to such a degree that it impinges on their ability to act safely or in their patients’ best interests.

Initial Complaint

Initially, the GDC will write to the registered dental practitioner with the complaint that they have received. A dentists may at that point respond or wait for the case to be investigated further before commenting. It is not always sensible for a dentist to reply too early on in the investigatory process, as it may harm their case to do so. However, there are certain types of cases where an early, well-considered response may lead to closure of the case.

GDC Allegations against Dentists

When the GDC completes its investigation it will formulate formal allegations or charges and the dentist will then be invited to reply. The complained about dentist will also be sent the GDC’s compiled evidence in support of the allegations. A dentists submission should be carefully-crafted and sufficiently detailed (and evidenced) to sufficiently respond to the concerns that have been raised. A dentist might have to show evidence of improved health, overcoming their shortcomings in clinical performance, or otherwise learning from the history of events. Many cases are closed at the investigatory stage of the GDC’s proceedings. A small number of cases are referred to a fitness to practise hearing in any one year.

Sexually motivated or dishonest conduct is highly likely to be referred to a fitness to practise hearing, whatever a dentist has to say in response to the allegations, if the evidence could reasonably lead to findings being made against the dentist. And there are classes of cases which, as a matter of public policy, must be referred to a fitness to practise hearing, in any event.

Nevertheless, there are many steps that a dentist can take to improve their prospects of success at a fitness to practise hearing, even if there is an inevitability about a referral. Therefore, dentists should take legal advice as early on as possible to prepare their defence case. Many cases are closed on paper, and a good submission at an early stage may achieve such an outcome.

GDC Interim Orders

The GDC can impose on a dentist either conditions or a suspension as an interim order. Conditions of Practice will place obligations and restrictions on a dentist, potentially limiting the types of work they can undeerake. The GDC also has the power to impose a suspension order, which would completely prohibit a dentist from working in any capacity where registered dental practitioner status is required. This can cause financial hardship both commercially and personally. See our page on GDC Interim Orders for more details.

GDC Fitness to Practise Proceedings

Dentists who are referred to a fitness to practise hearing can admit or deny the charges or allegations brought against them. Factual disputes are determined on the balance of probabilities. Other determinations are a matter of judgement for the panel hearing the case. Where misconduct, poor performance or ill health are established, the panel will consider whether a dentists fitness to practise is impaired. If it is not impaired the case will be closed, in all likelihood. Where fitness to practise is found to be impaired, a dentists falls to be sanctioned. Sanctions can end a dentists career if they are struck off. A dentist may alternatively be suspended for a period of time, or face a lesser sanction, such as conditions of practise.

It strikes us here at Dentists Legal Service that those dentists who properly prepare for a hearing are more likely to fare better than those who do not prepare. Being prepared requires a detailed analysis of the past history, and sufficient steps taken to overcome the past history and reassure the panel that in the future the public and profession can rely on the dentist. We support dentists through the process, advising dentists at each stage of the GDC process, assisting and guiding as appropriate.

GDC Appeals – Case Law

On occasions dentists bring legal challenges to decisions of the GDC by way of appeal or by way of judicial review. We can offer legal advice on the prospects and merits of an appeal, and represent dentists in the appeal courts.

Here are a selection of cases:-

Reviews of Warnings: Retroactive Effect of Legislation:

In DP v General Dental Council [2016] EWHC 3181 (Admin) – the high court held that an amendment to the Dentists Act 1984 had retroactive effect, covering the two years preceding the amendment coming into effect, as well as any two year period in the future, the time running from the date the warning was imposed. The new law permits dentists to ask the GDS to reopen cases where warnings were issued by the Investigating Committee in circumstances where the dentist is later unhappy about the decision. (December 2016)  

Time Limits for Lodging Appeals are Strict, save in Exceptional Circumstances:

In Darfoor v General Dental Council [2016] EWHC 2715 (Admin) – the high court held that there were no special circumstances that would enable a doctor to lodge an appeal out of time. The time limit for appeals is strict – 28 days – and an extension will only be granted on strict criteria. (October 2016) 

Suspension Order Commensurate with Misconduct:

In Sadighi v General Dental Council [2009] EWHC 1278 (Admin) – the high court determined that a six month suspension order, imposed on a dentist for falsification of notes submitted to the GDC, was not manifestly excessive.  Appeal dismissed. (May 2009)

If you are a dentist who seeks legal advice or assistance in relation to a GDC matter, give us a call in strict confidence and without obligation on: 0370 977 0021. Or use our Contact Us Form

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