The General Dental Council and the ARF

gdc-and-arfThe GDC’s recent consultation on the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) provoked a lot of debate and strong opinions on all sides. Many of you took to our social media channels to air your views, and we read your feedback with great interest.

To help you understand the proposed changes we’ve produced the following guide on the GDC and the ARF, including advice on how to make your voice heard.

How will the changes affect dental nurses?

The proposed changes would see the ARF for dental care professionals rise by 6.7%, to £128, or £8 from the current rate of £120. The definition of dental care professionals includes nurses, hygienists and therapists.

This means that a dental nurse working full-time can expect to be paying an extra 2p per day, 10p per week or 40p a month. 

Dentists will see a rise of 64% from £576 to £945.

So what does the GDC actually do?

The GDC was created to protect patients, and it does this in a few ways.

Firstly, all dental professionals must be registered with the council in order to work in the UK. The GDC ensures all registrants are properly qualified, competent and fit to practice.

The GDC is also one of a number of organisations that receive complaints about dental professionals. If an incident occurs in an NHS practice it can be reported directly to the GDC, to the practice, or to the local NHS commissioner. Complaints regarding private practices are directed to a separate organisation called the Dental Complaints Service, which is paid for by the GDC.

Depending on the severity of the offence, registrants could receive a letter of warning or even have their GDC registration revoked, which effectively stops them from practicing in the UK.

Lastly, the GDC requires all registrants to carry out Continuing Professional Development in order to keep their registration. CPD is designed to ensure that all professionals are kept up to date with latest developments in the industry and are trained to provide the highest possible standard of care.

What does the GDC not do?

One of the biggest misconceptions about the GDC is that it exists to represent the interests of its registrants. In fact, it exists to protect patients by, amongst other things, making sure members adhere to its code of Standards for Dental Professionals. 

Because of this, the GDC is not involved in disputes involving salary. Salaries are negotiated on a practice-by-practice and individual-by-individual basis, though your association may be able to provide advice and support.

The GDC cannot award compensation in cases of professional misconduct. On occasions where compensation is sought by the complainant the matter is referred to a court.

How is the GDC funded?

The GDC receives no government funding. Its income mainly comes from the ARF paid by registrants, although it receives a small amount from investments made on its behalf. A small amount of income also comes from exam fees and other sources, but it’s a tiny proportion of the total.

Last year the council’s total income was £32.8m, of which £30.9m came from registration fees and £0.6m was received from its investments. In the same year its total expenditure totalled £33.9m, meaning the GDC operated with a deficit of £1.1m for the year.

The GDC’s full accounts for 2013 are available online.

How is the ARF determined?

The ARF has been calculated to cover the cost of regulating the industry and no more. That’s why dentists pay more than other dental professionals: they make up most of the council’s work, so they incur most of the cost. The amount paid is unrelated to salary.

Why is the ARF going up?

The GDC has seen the amount of complaints soar in recent years. Since the last increase in 2010 the level of complaints has risen by 110%, and the cost of dealing with them has risen by 88%.

The GDC has been criticised by the Professional Standards Authority for, amongst other things, not dealing with complaints within the required timeframe. To get themselves up to the required standard and to deal with the increased volume of complaints, the council have calculated that the ARF needs to increase. 

If you’d like to read the calculations behind the ARF increase, you can do so in the GDC’s ARF consultation document.

It’s worth noting that the GDC have tried to lower their costs and made millions of pounds in efficiency savings.  

Where can I go to make my voice heard?

 The GDC has announced these changes as part of a consultation that runs until the 14th September 2014. At any time before that date you can go to the GDC’s consultation site and let them know what you think about the change.

Alternately, if you are a member of an association it’s worth contacting them directly. The associations are there to protect and represent their registrants, so make use of them and get in touch. 

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