General Dental Council accused of engaging in undercover investigations
LONDON, UK: According information gained via a freedom of information (FOI) request by Dental Protection and a report by The Telegraph, the General Dental Council (GDC) has been found to have spent over £17,000 on hiring a private detection agency to covertly investigate British dentists accused of wrongdoing. The tactics have angered Dental Protection, which stated that it is “disappointed and concerned” about the GDC’s legal, though ethically dubious, approach.
The response to the FOI request indicated that, between 2017 and 2018, the GDC paid £17,064.85 to Invicta Investigation to investigate complaints and information received with respect to a registrant’s fitness to practise dentistry. The number of undercover investigations for which Invicta was used remains unclear.
According to Dental Protection, its concern about the GDC’s behaviour stems from a case in 2016 in which it defended a dental technician subject to a complaint to the GDC that he might be working without registration. Two months later, two private investigators, acting under the direction of the GDC, visited the technician and posed as relatives of an elderly lady who needed new dentures, but could not attend an appointment in person because of her frailty.
An interim orders committee concluded that any evidence from the investigation was flawed and unfair, and the GDC practice committee halted any further action on the grounds that the investigation demonstrated abuse of process.
“The fact that the GDC is prepared to target its own registrants without a sufficiently justified cause is, in itself, unsettling for dentists. But what I find most concerning and disappointing is the covert nature of the investigation,” said Dr Raj Rattan, MBE, Dental Director at Dental Protection.
“The use of an entirely contrived scenario about a sick pensioner in very difficult circumstances was designed to trigger an emotional response and lure a registrant into acting outside of their scope. This is hardly an ordinary opportunity for wrongdoing, and it is unfair and invasive,” continued Rattan.
“In order to fulfil its statutory function, namely the protection of the public, the GDC investigates complaints or information received in respect of a registrant’s fitness to practise,” a spokesperson for the GDC said in response.
“There are number of methods open to us in pursuit of this. This includes the use of external investigators. However, this approach is one used in exceptional circumstances,” the spokesperson added.