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Probe halted after Northern Ireland dentist is removed from register

By Lisa Smyth

Published 12/11/2016

Allegations: Robert McMitchell
Allegations: Robert McMitchell

A dentist at the centre of an official probe into allegations of serious failings can no longer treat patients.

The General Dental Council (GDC) has accepted a request by Robert McMitchell, who owns dental surgeries across Northern Ireland, to be removed from the fitness to practise register.

It means the GDC has halted its investigation into the health professional and a scheduled fitness to practise hearing will now not go ahead.

UUP health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Dobson has written to the Health Minister for clarification on the matter.

The Health and Social Care Board said it had removed Mr McMitchell from its list of dentists. A spokeswoman added work is under way to ensure all of his patients were transferred to other dentists.

It emerged earlier this year that the GDC had imposed a series of restrictions on Mr McMitchell's license after receiving complaints about his work.

Explaining the decision to put the conditions in place, the GDC said the allegations were serious and that without the restrictions "patients would be placed at a real risk of harm".

The GDC launched its probe after the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) raised concerns about the "standard of care, treatment and record-keeping" for 15 patients.

A professor of restorative dentistry also made a number of criticisms about the treatment provided by Mr McMitchell to nine patients. The GDC also received a separate complaint from another dentist in relation to four of Mr McMitchell's patients.

An expert appointed by the GDC to examine the case said the care provided to the four patients between 1994 and 2014 "fell significantly below the level of professional practice reasonably expected in a range of areas".

Among the concerns raised by the GDC's expert were poor diagnosis and treatment planning, poor communication with the patient and failings in relation to consent for treatment.

In July 2008, Mr McMitchell was found guilty of misconduct by the GDC's Professional Conduct Committee after admitting allowing an untrained member of staff to take X-rays, which he monitored by CCTV.

The GDC said: "Your use of CCTV to observe the X-ray machine was a wholly inappropriate way of supervising that process."

However, it added it was not a case where his clinical practice had been found to be substandard and that no patients were put at risk or came to any harm.

It added: "You had a confidence - clearly misplaced - in your practice manager's competence. However, at the time, you did not appreciate the less than satisfactory way in which your practice was being administered.

"You've now accepted responsibility for those deficiencies."

The GDC said it was satisfied Mr Mitchell had taken steps to address all issues and allowed him to continue working.

Speaking after the latest development, Ms Dobson said it was concerning that a GDC investigation is halted when a dentist surrenders their licence.

"I have written to the Health Minister because the GDC investigations were launched after a Government body, the RQIA, raised concerns about the standard of care, treatment and record-keeping," she added.

"It is important that these concerns are fully investigated and I am seeking clarity from the minister on how she intends to take this forward now that the GDC investigation has halted."

Belfast Telegraph

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