GDC plans to increase ARF by 64 per cent

BDA slams the potential rise as ‘wholly unacceptable’

The General Dental Council (GDC) has released plans to increase the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) by 64 per cent to £945 a year.

The regulator stated its intention at the launch of a consultation document on the ARF level for 2015. In the document the GDC states that, since it last increasd the ARF in 2010, there has been a 110 per cent increase in complaints and it will need to collect an extra £18 million in fee income to deal with the exra volume.

The current fee level for dentists is £576 and £120 for DCPs. The GDC also plans to increase the DCP ARF by 6.7 per cent to £128.

A spokesman for the GDC said: “Since 2010 when we last increased the ARF there has been a 110 per cent increase in the number of complaints from patients and members of the public, employers, other registrants and the police about GDC registrants. As a result, we need additional funds to investigate these complaints and where necessary to bring Fitness to Practise cases involving dentists and DCPs. If we do not have sufficient funds to bring these cases we would fail in our duty to protect patients and the public. This would also mean that the public would lose confidence in dental professionals.”

However, the chair of the British Dental Association’s (BDA) Principal Executive Committe, Dr Mick Armstrong said the scale of the rise is unprecedented and at odds with the actions of other regulators. It also comes on the back of a highly critical Professional Standards (PSA) report on the GDC.

He said: “The suggestion that the profession pay more to fund a council that has been shown unable to do its job properly is frankly astonishing. The rise would be unpalatable at the best of times but it now appears that the profession is being asked to foot the bill for failure.”

The PSA report concluded that the GDC had failed to meet seven out of 10 standards governing registrants’ fitness to practise. Dr Armstrong stated that these failings have led to both patients and dentists being left in limbo and have added to the stress experienced by all parties involved. “Pumping more money from registrants into a flawed system is not the solution,” he said.

The PEC chair called on the GDC to investigate the underlying reasons for the ‘significant’ increase in complaints about dental registrants and to work with the profession to determine their causes. He continued: “It’s not just the huge rise in fees that has left the dental profession aghast, but, when dentists are expected to tolerate poor performance by the very body that is charged with the duty to assess their fitness to practise, we are justifiably outraged.

“The figure is, by a country mile, the highest fee charged by any comparable healthcare regulator. Some have managed to maintain or even reduce their annual retention fees, and also fared better in the PSA reports. Something just doesn’t add up.”

To read the GDC consultation document in full, click here.