Dentistry: structured event reporting form (SERF) guidelines

These guidelines are for the dentistry structured event reporting forms (SERF). The SERF is for reporting safeguarding issues, professionalism alerts and positive incidents.

Our dentistry students are expected to behave professionally and responsibly. They must complete the duties and requirements associated with their studies. They should do so in a manner that supports their own wellbeing and health as well as their peers. 

Types of event

Completing a SERF

It is important for both staff and students to appreciate that the SERF is an information notification system. A SERF is not held formally anywhere outside the secure SERF database. The SERF is only the vehicle by which information is securely gathered, triaged, and directed to appropriate person(s).

As such, any situation when a SERF is completed and submitted will be followed up with another process. This may be academic, such as lodging positive feedback in portfolio. It could be safeguarding focussed, such as student welfare needing pastoral or health input. Or it may relate to professionalism, leading to disciplinary note of the professionalism alert.

System following submission of SERF

Our main concern is to ensure that patient safety and student welfare are always supported. All SERFs will be triaged by a Designated Officer (DO). The DO will assess if the level assigned is appropriate for the incident, and if necessary, will up or down-grade the level.

At subsequent meetings with the student a SERF outcome will be completed and uploaded into the student’s eportfolio. This identifies actions to be undertaken.

Actions in the event of multiple SERFs being submitted

A secure SERF summary document is held in line with the School’s confidentiality policy. This gives summary data of the number and nature of SERFs for each student and is only accessible by the DO or nominated proxy.

Frequently asked questions

If a student has more than three unauthorised absences in one semester, the admin team will complete a SERF indicating Level 1. If a student is absent for more than seven days, but in contact with the admin staff, a SERF indicating Level 2 will be completed.

It must be highlighted again that this is not disciplinary – this is to safeguard students. The university imposes strict attendance requirements. Unauthorised absence could make it impossible for a student to complete that year’s studies. This communication helps the Head of Phase think about what help might be needed for a student to do well in their studies and return successfully.

For students absent with no contact, please see the missing student policies.

The information is once again triaged by the DO.

Level 1

If a Level 1 issue is reported, the DO will communicate with the relevant staff member immediately to try and remedy the situation. The line manager or relevant staff member at UCLan will be informed.

Level 2

If this is a Level 2 issue, the DO will communicate with Head of Course immediately. Head of Course will meet with the individual and an action plan will be raised to try and remedy the situation.

Confirmation that the rating is appropriate will be documented. Suspension of teaching duties may be needed and, in this case, disciplinary proceedings may need to be discussed.

Level 3

If this is a Level 3 issue, the DO will communicate with the Head of School immediately. They will meet with the individual and an action plan will be raised to try and remedy the situation.

Confirmation that the rating is appropriate will be documented. If it's correct, this will lead to suspension whilst investigation is undertaken. Appropriate proceedings are discussed.

If a student reports an issue related to how a course is taught or other course-related matters, the DO will review it. It will then be passed along to the right staff member. The same timescale applies as with other incidents reported through SERF.

A Level 1 incident should lead to an action being formulated within two weeks of receipt of the SERF. A Level 2 incident should lead to an action being formulated within one week of receipt of the SERF. The actions will be fed back to the student who raised the SERF. This will be in writing unless the student requests a face to face meeting.

As with all systems, there may be times when people consider that the process has not led to the correct outcome. In this case, we can consider an appeal.

It's important for students to know that providing feedback about problems and incidents is a part of their learning and growth. The General Dental Council (GDC) guidelines recommend reflecting on these experiences for professional development.

Students have the right to appeal any decision at any time. But if a student is found to have limited self-awareness regarding their practice during this process, it could lead to a professionalism alert or a fitness to practice concern. We therefore suggest having open and honest conversations. Students should seek independent support early if they're thinking of appealing.

Sources of support include the Student’s Union, SASS and the student’s Academic Advisor.

All appeals will be audited annually by the Designated Officer and reported to the Dental Academic Committee. This ensures the consistency and fairness of the process.

As the process is predicated towards easy reporting, it is conceivable that information may be received that is anonymous. Although not considered a problem, there may be situations where the contents are seen as harmful or false. The SERF system lays out process, but not outcome. This means that talking to staff and students will quickly show if this unusual circumstance has occurred. If the outcome of a SERF is that the contents were felt to be false, the SERF will be removed from the student’s record.

It must be noted that filling in a SERF with inaccurate or malicious information is itself a fitness to practice or serious conduct issue. Anyone found to have done so will be subject to appropriate processes.

All submitted SERFs are presented anonymously within the relevant course management meetings. This helps us quickly find and fix issues with educational provision, staff, or facilities.

This also allows audit of the process to take place. The audit checks if timelines are met, if the confidentiality policy is followed, and if the procedures are appropriate.

An annual report will be submitted to the Dental Academic Committee about the process. The reporting process will be covered within induction training for all students and UCLan staff. It will also be covered with staff within placement sessions who are trained to complete work based assessments. And finally all examiners who take part in the School assessment process.

Designated Officer

Dr Vicky Buller