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19th September 2014

Democracy or feudal state?

Democracy or feudal stateThe General Dental Council have now received over 4000 responses to their ‘consultation’ on the proposed rise in Annual Retention Fee. There was a meeting of the Council yesterday to consider these. Although a lot of information was available to consider, the most important questions asked are summarised below (thanks to the BDA News).

The GDC said it would provide a clear account of the resource needs for 2015, do you agree it has?
Yes 34%
No 66%
The GDC said it would provide a clear account of what it is doing to keep costs under control, do you agree it has?
Yes 20%
No 80%
Based on the principle that the GDC will only charge dentists what it costs itself to regulate them, do you agree that the ARF for dentists in 2015 should be £945 to enable the GDC to raise sufficient funds to deliver its statutory functions?
Yes 3%
No 97%

Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee, said: ‘Today we are reading through 183 pages, capturing the views of dental professionals across Britain on the GDC’s planned ARF hike. The British Dental Association (BDA) has argued that the comments provided by thousands of dentists point to a fundamental crisis of confidence in the dental regulator.'

So far, the general response of the GDC to any criticism of its performance is to just carry on regardless and pull up the drawbridge on its posh headquarters in Wimpole Street. The messages it sends out are of the `we know best` variety. The comparison to a medieval feudal state cannot be avoided, as they tell us to carry on ploughing the fields and paying our tithes – or else!

Castle under cannon fire

Now, though, their castle is under attack from several fronts. The BDA is threatening legal action, and the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has produced a scathing report which has caught the attention of parliament as all-party health select committee is considering investigating the report. The PSA report follows an investigation requested by the health secretary in 2011 concerning deficiencies already highlighted, but there are now more concerns, notably:

  • On fitness to practice, the failures included delays in progressing cases, risk management, customer service, communication and the secure retention of information.
  • The regulator also censured the GDC for failing to maintain accurate registers, with multiple mistakes due to human error, IT and the movement of data between systems.

I have to say that if a general dental practice had failed a CQC inspection, and then a second inspection still found problems with poor management, poor communication and poor clinical record keeping, then it would not survive very long. However, the GDC castle has very thick walls!


There has been talk of a mass protest and refusal to pay retention fees, but the GDC has already responded by saying that anyone practicing without registration will face prosecution. This month, a dental hygienist caught practicing without registration is facing a £5000 fine. So the GDC has a very big stick to threaten us with. It’s not worth it folks!

We continue to wait to see what the official response to the consultation really is. For many dentists for whom this might be the ‘final straw’, this wait is a tad too long. As many of us are on contracts with three-month periods of notice, any decision after 30th of September is too late to give notice before 30th December. We are just being stretched on a big rack whilst the officials play with our lives.

Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor

Topics: Dentists

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