New ARF consultation proposes fee freeze

Regulator “continues to ignore its own failings” says BDA

Less than year after a judicial review ruled that the General Dental Council (GDC) had acted unlawfully in its consultation process over the proposed increase to the ARF, the regulator has launched a new consultation on fees.

And, while the new consultation proposes that the ARF remains static at £890 for dentists and £116 for DCPs, the British Dental Association (BDA) has attacked the GDC’s plans saying it shows nothing has changed.

Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, said: “The General Dental Council has announced a consultation on not changing their fees. We hope they aren’t expecting us to take any comfort from this, as for 40,000 dentists ‘business as usual’ means another year shackled to the most expensive, and least effective health regulator in Britain.

“This latest announcement shows nothing has changed. Dentists are still paying double the average for UK health professionals. Registrants are still on the receiving end of the same one-sided conversation from a cavalier regulator, which continues to ignore its own failings.

“What we’ve not seen is any real willingness from a failed regulator to get on top of its day job, and to finally draw a line under years of mission creep. For our part, we will be subjecting these numbers to forensic scrutiny. We encourage all colleagues to have their say, so we can see what GDC’s commitment to ‘transparency’ and ‘openness’ really means.”

In a statement, the GDC again pointed to the 121 per cent increase in complaints since 2010. The consultation document charts this rise in complaints from 1,401 in 2010, to 1,578 in 2011 and then a spike of 44 per cent to 2,278 in 2012. This was then followed by a 31 per cent increase in 2013 to 2,990. In 2014, the last full year on record, the number of actual complaints stood at 3,099, a 4 per cent rise on the previous year.

The GDC argues that, given it takes 18 months for a complaint to progress through investigation and onto a final hearing by one of the Fitness to Practise (FTP) committees, the spike in complaints in 2012 and 2013 will lead to an anticipated 30 per cent increase in the number of FTP days in 2015 to around 1,622. It is this rise in hearing days that the regulator based last year’s ARF increase on.

For the coming year, the GDC is forecasting that there will only be a modest 2 per cent increase in complaints, but instead of a decrease in fees, the regulator wants to keep the level static in an effort to re-build its financial reserves.

Evlynne Gilvarry, the GDC’s chief executive and registrar, said: “The GDC is committed to being a transparent regulator. This includes setting out clearly what the ARF funds and that is why we are launching this exceptional consultation today.

“We want to be clear with the public, dental professionals and our other important stakeholders about how we have calculated the fees for dentists and dental care professionals and how the income will be used to fund all our work to ensure patients continue to be protected and public confidence in the dental profession remains high.”

For more information on the consultation and to take part, visit the GDC website by clicking here.


Consultation questions

1. Based on the principle that we will only charge dentists what it costs us to regulate them, do you agree that the ARF for dentists in 2016 should be £890 to enable the GDC to raise sufficient funds to operate effectively?

2. Based on the principle that we will only charge dental care professionals what it costs us to regulate them, do you agree that the ARF for Dental Care Professionals in 2016 should be £116 to enable the GDC to raise sufficient funds to operate effectively?

3. If you disagree that the 2016 ARF for dentists should be £890 and/or that the ARF for Dental Care Professionals should be £116 please tell us why and indicate the level you consider appropriate.