The proposed increase in the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) would see the cost for dentists rising from £576 to £945; the GDC is currently consulting on its proposal.
Although sharing the concerns of those alarmed by the size of the increase, Dental Protection is warning dental professionals to tread carefully when making public their reaction and also to think before considering withholding their ARF as both actions would threaten their registration and ability to practise lawfully.
The Dentists Act requires that the ARF is paid in full on or before 31 December (for dentists) and there are no exceptions. It would be unwise to follow the 'can’t pay - won’t pay' protest groups because a failure to pay in full will result in automatic de-registration and a delay (plus a loss of income) until one could be restored to the register. Continuing to practise or to have an interest in the ownership of a practice while unregistered would be the illegal practise of dentistry and/or unlawful involvement in the business of dentistry and could in both respects result in a criminal prosecution and invalidate any professional indemnity held by the dentist in question.
Dental Protection will be responding to the GDC’s consultation on the proposed increase in ARF for both dentists and DCPs and would encourage all registrants to do the same, either as an individual and/or collectively as part of a wider group (LDC/BDA Section, etc). Public remarks about the GDC’s decision should be measured and directed through normal professional channels, avoiding any personal allegation of bringing the profession into disrepute (notes 4 and 5).
Dental Protection also suggests that the GDC could contain spiralling costs by more effective and proportionate Fitness to Practise (FtP) procedures, which account for around 80% of this year’s budget and are therefore the main reason for the ARF increase being necessary.
Kevin Lewis, Dental Director for Dental Protection said, 'Dental Protection has for some time been highlighting the many problems within the GDC’s Fitness to Practise regime. This latest announcement serves only to highlight them.
Not only are there deep concerns regarding the management of cases up to and through the Investigating Committee(IC), and the unnecessary complexity and length of many Professional Conduct Committee hearings, the incorrect use of the present legal tests has also created many inappropriate referrals to the Interim Orders Committee(IOC) and Professional Conduct Committee. The IOC committee is only required to intervene when there is a clear and urgent need to protect the public and there should be very few circumstances when such urgent action becomes necessary.
Within weeks of the GDC’s own regulator (the PSA) announcing that it is once again investigating the GDC and its IC procedures in the wake of further whistle-blowing allegations, reports of the GDC’s recent activity in the dental press have not helped the profession’s growing loss of confidence in its regulator.
The angry debate prompted by the proposed 64% increase in the annual retention fee has created an unfortunate juxtaposition when viewed against a recent GDC campaign in the national press, encouraging private dental patients to make greater use of the Dental Complaints Service.'