NMC publishes seriousness research with General Dental Council (GDC)

Published on 17 February 2022

Findings show that professionals who engage with us during the FtP process can have more positive outcomes

We’ve published the findings from our joint research with the General Dental Council (GDC). Read more below.

This report comes out of a piece of collaborative research with the GDC which seeks to understand how regulators approach seriousness in FtP cases. It shows how, as a regulator, context shapes the way we consider seriousness, how we make decisions about seriousness, and the different aspects that impact these decisions.

The findings reinforce that professionals who engage well with us during the fitness to practise (FtP) process will never suffer as a result of early engagement and can make a positive difference to the outcome of their case. Although FtP investigations affect less than one percent of the nursing and midwifery professionals on our register each year, we encourage these professionals to be fully engaged and responsive. This will help us make informed decisions early on in the FtP process.

This research also shows the importance of considering context when looking at FtP cases. We need to understand the role of other people, the culture and environment they were working in when something went wrong. Only then can we decide what needs to happen to keep people safe in the future.

Tom Scott, Interim Executive Director of Professional Regulation, said:

“We’re grateful to the GDC for collaborating with us on this research and to the research team at the University of Plymouth for their diligence and excellent work on this complicated area. These findings will form an important part of our work around the concept of seriousness in FtP cases. We hope it will encourage even more professionals to engage with us early on in the FtP process.

“We regularly review and update our guidance based on the best available evidence. While our research shows differences in how regulators make decisions concerning seriousness, the government’s work on regulatory reform could help to address this. We hope this will help to maintain confidence in our FtP processes and our role in supporting health and care professionals to provide safe, effective and kind care.”

GDC Executive Director, Fitness to Practise, John Cullinane, said:

“The findings in this report will inform all our work where the concept of seriousness is relevant and this research provides useful evidence to inform our ongoing work to improve our fitness to practise processes. Our outdated legislation, however, severely limits how much progress we can make, preventing proportionate and responsive approaches in many areas of our work.

“We continue to press the Government to deliver the reforms they consulted on last year which we believe will give us the freedom to make significant improvements for the benefit of both patients and dental professionals.”

Read the full report on the concept of seriousness in fitness to practise cases.


This research looks at cases that ended between 2016 and 2019 and predates our work to emphasise the importance of the context of an incident.

Find out more about how we consider seriousness in FtP cases.

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