General Data Council publishes results of in-depth public survey

As part of the General Dental Council’s (GDC) commitment to using evidence and insight to guide all of its work, today the regulator published the results of its 2018/19 Patient and Public Survey. The research, which includes both quantitative and qualitative elements and presents the seventh instalment since 2011, examines public attitudes on a range of key issues relating to dentistry and how the professions are regulated.

One key finding reveals public attitudes about where the regulator should focus its attention most. When asked, a greater proportion opted towards prevention rather than taking action once something had gone wrong. The survey found that nearly two-thirds (65%) thought that regulatory focus should be balanced, whilst one in five (22%) said it should focus on prevention, and just 7% thought it should be on taking action in instances of serious complaints. On the subject, one interview participant said:

“If you’re having to take action, it’s already gone too far… if you can prevent it from happening, then that’s the best outcome for everybody.”

GDC Head of Regulatory Intelligence, David Teeman, said:

“We undertake this regular research primarily to ensure we have a good understanding of current public attitudes in relation to our work. But, the survey’s scope is very broad and is, therefore, highly relevant to anyone who works in dentistry, so I’d really encourage everyone to take a look at the results.”

In relation to how dental professionals are regulated, seven in ten people (73%) were confident that the GDC was effectively regulating dental professionals. Of those who were not confident, the two most commonly cited reasons for this were: that they didn’t know dentists were regulated and that they’d had a bad personal experience of dental care.

The research also found that the proportion of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who said they were confident that the GDC is regulating effectively was significantly lower than people from White backgrounds (64% compared with 74%). The GDC is considering further research to understand this more clearly.

Mr Teeman continued:

“It is encouraging that overall, almost three quarters of the public were confident in GDC regulation of dental professionals and also support the GDC’s focus on preventing bad practice ‘upstream’, as well as taking action when serious issues are raised.”

A further key finding relates to the cost of dental treatment for patients and how this might impact on their expectations. The public were asked for their views on paying for services and care, and whether that influenced their expectations of dentists compared with other healthcare professionals. Although responses were mixed, two in five (39%) either strongly agreed or tended to agree that they expected more from dentists than other healthcare professionals because they pay for treatment.

To read the survey’s full results, visit