GDC publishes research in first step of its Scope of Practice review

2 June 2020

In its 2020-2022 corporate strategy, Right time, right place, right touch, the General Dental Council (GDC) committed to a review of its Scope of Practice guidance for dental professionals, with the aim of supporting a more effective deployment of the whole dental team and facilitating inter-professional working. Today, marking the completion of the first stage of that review, the regulator publishes the report of independent research it commissioned to understand a number of key issues relating to the guidance.

When the Scope of Practice guidance was first introduced, it was designed to provide dental professionals with an understanding of the types of tasks they could be expected to carry out, or skills they could develop, alongside the exercising of their professional judgement, when deciding what they were trained, competent and indemnified to do.

One of the key findings of the research is that the guidance is now not being used in the way it was intended, as a guide, but more of a task and treatment checklist for dental professionals. The research also found that the primary users of the guidance are education and training providers, employers, professional representative bodies, and less so dental professionals.

The research also found that members of the public do not feel that the guidance is relevant or necessary for them, and don’t feel that they need to have access to this type of information. However, significant worries among dental professionals and stakeholders were also identified in relation to the potential for substantial changes or if the guidance were to no longer exist, due to a concern that professionals may act out of scope.

GDC Policy Manager, Jessica Rothnie, said: “Our aim is for this review to provide as much flexibility to dental professionals as possible, so they are using their own professional judgement about the provision of care and their own education, development and competencies. We want any future guidance to be less prescriptive and support dental professionals’ ability to use their experience and judgement.”

Further work is now underway to consider the findings and understand the appropriate level of support for dental professionals in this regard, as well as the format that support should take. Once that work is complete, dental professionals will be invited to work with the regulator on shaping its proposals for the future.

To read the full report, visit the GDC’s research library online.

For further information contact Tom Chappell, Media Manager on or 07738 182756

Notes to Editor

The Scope of Practice Review research, which was undertaken on behalf of the General Dental Council by IFF Research, explored the following among dental professionals, stakeholders and members of the public:

  • Awareness and understanding of the roles within the dental team.
  • Use and perceptions of the Scope of Practice guidance.
  • Impacts of the Scope of Practice guidance, both intended and unintended.
  • The future of the Scope of Practice guidance.

The research involved three stages: the scoping stage, stakeholder workshop, and mainstage of the research. Each stage of the research was designed to inform the next. The key objective of the scoping stage was to understand the context of the Scope of Practice guidance and develop a logic model to map out the (current or possible) outcomes and impacts of the Scope of Practice guidance. The workshop then discussed the findings from the scoping stage of the research and the logic model in detail to help shape the focus of the mainstage of the research. The mainstage of the research involved six group discussions and two interviews with dental professionals, two discussion groups with members of the public and nine interviews with stakeholders. It also involved the analysis of two questions that were added to the annual Dental Professionals Survey conducted by the GDC.

The Scope of Practice guidance sets out the skills and abilities that every dental professional should have, or could develop, by title. It was introduced in 2009, to support those dental care professionals who had joined the statutory Register a year earlier, following a two-year transition period. The dental care professional titles added to the UK Register in 2009 were dental nurse, dental technician, clinical dental technician and orthodontic therapist. The guidance was reviewed in 2013 on the introduction of direct access, for some dental care professional titles, undertaking specific tasks as it was felt that this would help with the transition to new direct access arrangements, for the titles included. The Scope of Practice guidance asks dental professionals to ensure that they are trained, competent and indemnified before carrying out any clinical or other support to patients. Dentistry is the only area of healthcare where a clinical scope of practice is provided by the professional regulator.

The General Dental Council (GDC) is the UK-wide statutory regulator of just over 112,000 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.

Tom Chappell

Media Manager

General Dental Council


Editors Notes




01788 575050


The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is a nationally recognised body that represents over 4,000 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists across the UK and beyond.

BSDHT maintain an on-going dialogue with the General Dental Council (GDC), the Departments of Health and all of the main groups representing dental care professionals, and attends meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, bringing dental hygiene and therapy to the attention of government ministers and MP’s.

Visit for more information.

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