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News / September 15, 2009

New vetting system to impact on dentists

by Guy Hiscott

Dentists in Northern Ireland who have regular contact with children or vulnerable adults will have to register with the ISA, a Home Office sponsored body, and have a criminal records check.

The General Dental Council (GDC) is investigating how the controversial Vetting and Barring scheme will impact on dental professionals amid fresh Government plans to review it.

It has been set up in the wake of the Soham murders of two girls by school caretaker Ian Huntley in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002, and is aimed at stopping paedophiles getting access to children or inappropriate people working with vulnerable adults.

The scheme, due to be rolled out next month, was announced in detail last week.

Anyone who is paid for their efforts will be charged a £64 fee to register. Those who fail to register and have their backgrounds checked will face a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record.

But today it was announced that, in the face of the growing protests, children’s secretary Ed Balls is re-examining the Vetting and Barring scheme.

He is reported as saying the review was intended to ensure the ‘right balance’ has been struck over how many people would face checks.

Dental professionals are among the huge list of people who will now fall under the scheme, which will eventually cover 11.3 million people.

A spokesperson for the GDC said: ‘We are looking carefully at how the Vetting and Barring Scheme could affect General Dental Council registrants and what role the GDC may play.

‘We are liaising with other regulators and working out how best to share relevant information. We are committed to keeping registrants informed of progress in this area and helping them understand their responsibilities. The GDC already has a series of measures to ensure patient protection.

‘Our Standards for Dental Professionals states that registrants should maintain their professional knowledge and competence. This includes finding out about laws and regulations which affect their work, premises, equipment and business – and following them.

‘We also expect professionals to raise concerns if they believe patients might be at risk because of the behaviour of an employer or colleague, and to justify the trust that patients, the public and colleagues have in the profession by always acting honestly and fairly.’

The Home Office anticipates up to 45,000 people will be barred from working with children or vulnerable adults, including some currently in jobs, once the scheme is fully rolled out – compared with around 25,000 currently.

Anyone barred who then tries to work in a sensitive job faces up to five years in prison. Employers knowingly hiring a barred individual face up to six months in jail.

In Northern Ireland, the system will replace the Disqualification from Working with Children (DWC) List, the Unsuitable Persons List (UP List) and the Disqualification from Working with Vulnerable Adults (DWVA) List.