GDC publishes stakeholder perceptions research and plans for improvement

The results of research undertaken in 2020, designed to better understand professionals’, students’ and other stakeholders’ perceptions of the General Dental Council (GDC), and test understanding of the regulator’s role, was published today.

The results indicate that overall perceptions of the GDC were more negative (58%) than positive (21%) in 2020, and that views amongst the dental team have worsened from when the same questions were posed in 2018. Conversely, views of the GDC improved slightly amongst dental students and other stakeholders.

The report also highlights a lack of universal understanding of the regulator’s role, with almost half of all professionals surveyed believing the GDC was responsible for setting clinical standards, which is not the case.

GDC Chief Executive and Registrar, Ian Brack, said:

The findings in this report illustrate some of the frustrations felt in the sector and where we can direct our efforts. The pandemic has thrown up new challenges for us all and exposed some historic ones, not least the need for those we regulate to understand our role and our shared responsibilities in ensuring patients are protected, and public confidence is maintained.

Reflecting on the findings that dissatisfaction with fitness to practise performance was a significant contributor to negative perceptions, Brack continued:

I am accountable for performance of the GDC and very clear about what has not gone well and what we’re doing about it. Without regulatory reform, our ability to significantly improve the fitness to practise process is largely limited to making marginal operational improvements and applying more resource to an inefficient system. Nevertheless, I am determined that we will make the improvements we can.

More detailed commentary on the research, as well as reflection on fitness to practise performance and improvement is available on the GDC’s website.

About this research

The GDC commissioned DJS Research to undertake this Stakeholder Perception Research in 2020, with the aim of building on the first round of research completed in 2018. The 2020 research had six key objectives, to explore and understand

  1. overall perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the GDC and the basis upon which they have been formed
  2. perceptions of, and attitudes towards, GDC communications relating to COVID-19
  3. the different channels through which dental professionals, stakeholders and students currently receive information about the GDC’s activities, and their preferences
  4. perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the different GDC channels, including comparing preferred ‘tone of voice’ for each channel
  5. perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the GDC name and brand and the basis upon which they have been formed
  6. comparisons with relevant findings from the research undertaken in 2018.

The research used a mixed methodology, comprising in-depth qualitative telephone interviews and an online survey with dental professionals, stakeholders and students.

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the UK-wide statutory regulator of just over 113,000 members of the dental team, including approximately 42,000 dentists and 70,000 dental care professionals. Our primary purpose is to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services. To achieve this, we register qualified dental professionals, set standards of dental practice, investigate complaints about dental professionals' fitness to practise, and work to ensure the quality of dental education. The Dentists Act 1984 provides the legislative framework for our work. For more information visit

The GDC’s 2020-2022 strategy: Right time, right place, right touch details the regulators planned activity across five strategic aims and the introduction of registration application fees was explored in the strategy’s consultation. The approach is captured by strategy’s title; ‘Right time’, to illustrate the GDC’s continued focus on developing its approach to upstream regulation, ‘Right place’, to describe the continued work to support issues resolution by the correct organisation and to promote local complaint resolution wherever possible, and ‘Right-touch’, to highlight the regulator’s commitment to ensuring its enforcement activity is evidence-based and proportionate.

The GDC undertakes research and intelligence work to enable an evidence-informed approach to regulation, strategy and policy development. To share the insight and learning from this work, findings are published across a range of formats, including in the GDC’s Research Library.