Case Study
General Dental Council

Sectors: Health
Medical and Healthcare
Service(s): Data Processing and Analysis, Face-to-face, Interpretation and Reporting, Project Design, Quantitative
Approach(es): Public Consultation

The Challenge

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the regulatory body of the dental profession in the United Kingdom and is responsible for protecting patients and the public interest.

As part of this role, it has powers to set up lists of registered dentists who meet certain conditions and have the right to use a specialist title. The Specialist Lists indicate dentists who have met requirements for entry to the lists and have the right to call themselves a specialist in a particular area.

In this context, the GDC commissioned DJS Research (DJS) to carry out a public consultation to investigate public understanding of different types of dental professionals, and the titles that they use.

The Approach

DJS carried out a large scale quantitative survey, face-to-face, across a range of locations covering England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A total of 1,089 interviews was achieved.

On completion of the fieldwork, DJS collated, verified and analysed all the quantitative data and produced a report summarising the key findings.

The Results

Overall the research suggested that the GDC consider a number of key strands of policy to address the issues raised by the research:

  • Actions to clarify the status associated with the title ‘Dr’, and continuing scrutiny to ensure that dental professionals who employ the courtesy title ensure that it is not used in a way that misleads the public (particularly if the individual in question is not medically qualified).
  • Guidelines for making referrals to specialists to ensure patients are informed of their credentials, and where possible the referral is chosen from the GDC lists.
  • Guidelines regarding the use of titles and terms that may mislead the public and suggest an individual has specialist qualifications when they haven’t – for example ‘smile specialist’.
  • Communication to raise public awareness of the GDC and its specialist lists to provide reassurance to the public and help them make informed choices.

The research was used to frame the shape of future guidance on specialist lists and the use of titles by dental professionals. It also helped inform other policy work such as standards on ethical advertising within the dental profession.

Further information about the research can be found here: Research Findings

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"The research was carried out as promised, to schedule, and with excellent communication throughout".

GDC Researcher

© DJS Research 2024