Revisiting GDC web content guidelines

Don’t let your website content land you in trouble with the regulators!

mistake signSeveral articles in the Dental Media blog look at how to develop and launch a website which will be a credit to your practice and also bring in those essential new patient enquiries. However, when we do that we also need to be very aware of the regulations which go alongside, for example privacy via GDPR, data security and also the strict requirements of the GDC.

Today’s short blog will focus on the GDC and what you can and can’t say on your website. Also the information that they require you to have in place.

This is incredibly important as quite a lot of dentists have fallen foul of the regulations and ended up in trouble when the content they used on their websites was inappropriate. Unfortunately this is something we still see a lot of and our content team have to filter very carefully before we add website content submitted by dental clients. I’ll illustrate with some examples a little later.

GDC guidance on advertising

The “golden rules” are laid down in this document from the GDC and even though they are classed as “guidelines” it makes sense to follow them. As you likely know, the GDC can be very punitive, so it pays to stay on-side:

Advertising – The GDC Guidelines

This guidance runs alongside the general Standards For The Dental Team and in a nutshell says:

  • keep information current and accurate
  • use clear language
  • back up claims with facts
  • avoid ambiguity and unrealistic expectations
  • be careful when endorsing products
  • show you qualifications, where you gained them and your GDC number in your biography
  • provide clear contact details
  • include the GDC’s contact details
  • a complaints procedure and who to contact if the complainant is not satisfied
  • show when your website was last updated

Specialist Titles

This is an area where a number of dentists have made mistakes and been hauled in front of disciplinary hearings. Specifically, this is the guidance:

“If you are a dentist and are on a GDC specialist list you can use the title ‘Specialist’ or describe yourself as a specialist in….”

“If you are a dentist and you are not on a GDC specialist list you must not use titles which may imply specialist status such as Orthodontist, Periodontist, Endodontist etc.”

Also, you may not create titles which don’t actually exist e.g. ‘dental implant specialist’. You should also be extremely careful using the term “expert” – this is typically reserved for the realm of specialists, but even then you need to deliberate and be sure that it is OK to use and not misleading.

Avoiding costly mistakes

Whilst none of the above requirements is difficult to meet if you are suitably informed, you would perhaps be surprised at the number of mistakes we see regularly. In the last day or so, a well known dental advisor posted on social media about an apparently “excellent new website” at a practice he’d visited recently. We took a quick look and on the home page, the dental team were all referred to as “experts” even though most of them weren’t specialists. There were other contraventions in biographies etc but I won’t list them here. Hopefully they’ve been picked up and addressed before the GDC take a look!

The above case was an example of a non-dental website design team dipping into the world of dentistry and getting it badly wrong; so it pays to think twice when it comes to hiring a team for your next practice website. Invariably a dental design specialist will be much better placed to keep you in compliance, as well as much better equipped to handle your overall marketing needs.

Another area where mistakes are often made is where non-clinical staff are involved in updating the practice website. Often there is only a limited knowledge of the statutory requirements and plenty of “gotchas” sneak in. Our content team looks out for these where we take responsibility for client updates; however we can’t catch everything where clients use their website content management systems to do their own site maintenance. We strongly recommend that all principals and managers ensure that any staff involved with website updates are fully versed in the GDC guidelines. It’s also worthwhile carrying out periodic audits of your website content.

Summary

If you want to stay out of trouble, compliance with the GDC guidelines is essential when it comes to dental website content, so please make sure you understand what is required and ensure it is implemented. Here at Dental Media we work with website content all the time and we know exactly what you need and what you can and can’t say. So if you need help, please give our content team a call on 01332 672548 for free guidance. Don’t get caught out!