Understanding and evaluating early career professionals’ experiences and perceptions of the GDC

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the statutory regulator of dental professionals in the UK. The GDC is keen to understand and explore the experiences and perceptions of and attitudes towards the GDC of early career dental professionals – namely those who have been registered to practice dentistry in the UK for five years or less.

In late 2022, SQW was commissioned by the GDC to explore this. The findings were intended to inform the GDC’s ongoing and future activity with (and for) early career professionals, to help meet its regulatory objectives.

The study involved a detailed scoping phase, an online survey completed by 1,479 early career dental professionals, follow up interviews with 47 early career dental professionals, and interviews with key stakeholders both internal and external to the GDC. SQW also drew on relevant insights from other studies published by the GDC and other healthcare regulators in the UK.

The report has been published by the GDC, and is available here

Key findings from the report are as follows:

  • The research found that most early career dental professionals hold either a positive (44%) or neutral (30%) perception of the GDC, with dental care professionals viewing the GDC more favourably than dentists.
  • Perceptions of the GDC vary among different dental professions. For example, dental nurses had the highest positive perceptions (59%) compared to dentists who had the lowest positive perceptions (22%). Dentists also had the highest negative perceptions (52%), significantly more than any other group.
  • Individuals registered with the GDC for a longer period are typically less positive in their perceptions of the GDC. What influences these perceptions also changes over time; the perceptions of the GDC amongst dental professionals who have been on the register for longer are more informed by their colleagues’ views rather than their own experiences of the GDC.
  • Once in their role, GDC activities such as setting standards for dental education and training and providing guidance were reported to have had a positive or very positive impact on respondents’ professional practice. However, again this varied by profession, with over 70% of dental nurses, therapists, and hygienists reporting a positive or very positive impact, compared with only 37% of dentists.
  • In general, survey respondents felt that the GDC promotes equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the dental sector. Interviewees noted efforts made by the GDC in this regard, including visible efforts to increase diversity of the Fitness to Practice panel, more information on the GDC’s website about EDI, and more inclusive and diverse representation in communications. However, less than half of survey respondents reported being aware of the GDC’s EDI Strategy. There was variation in awareness by role and where respondents’ qualified. 

In response to these findings, the study identified a series of implications for the GDC to consider going forward, which are available to read in the report.

For more information about the study, please contact SQW’s Lauren Roberts, via lroberts@sqw.co.uk

For information about the GDC, please see its website: www.gdc-uk.org