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OMG – How Much?
Last year, our gas and electricity supplier sent a letter saying that our direct debit was going up by 40%. Admittedly, this was because we had been relying on ‘estimated’ readings for a long time. It was a bit of a shock, but at least it wasn’t because energy costs had rocketed due to poor performance of British Gas employees. To see why this is relevant, read on. Dentists have just been hit with the news that their annual retention fee is going up from £576 to £945, an increase of 64%!!
Now, why is this happening? The GDC say that: “Since 2010 when we last increased the ARF there has been a 110% 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.”
Who has lost confidence in who?
It seems to me that the increase in complaints against dentists, from 1500 in 2011 to 3500 in 2014 (so far) is an indication that the public have already lost confidence in dentists. The explosion in complaints is fuelled by a growing awareness of what patients should expect from us as professionals. Following this, who actually sets and maintains these professional standards? Well, the GDC of course.
A recent highly critical Professional Standards Authority (PSA) report on the GDC concluded that the GDC had failed to meet seven out of 10 standards governing registrants’ fitness to practise. These failings have led to both patients and dentists being left in limbo and have added to the stress experienced by all parties involved. If the government is losing confidence in the GDC, and patients are losing confidence in us, who is going to lead the way out? More importantly why should we be paying more money in higher registration fees to an organisation which has already been measured as failing.
The GDC recently held a consultation on the principles it will use for setting the ARF. The consultation received 1255 responses and the majority (60%) of respondents supported the policy approach that they should calculate the fee each year according to how much each registrant group (dentists and DCPs) costs us to regulate them. That consultation did not give us all the information on what it would actually cost to do so. However, the GDC is quoting this as 60% support for their intention to make the charges.
The Chair of the British Dental Association’s Principal Executive Committee, Mick Armstrong, met with GDC leaders this morning and expressed his alarm at the GDC’s plans for the 64% rise in the annual retention fee. According to the BDA statement, Dr Armstrong told GDC leaders that such a rise is wholly unacceptable and the scale of the rise is unprecedented and at odds with the actions of all other regulators. Commenting about the proposed fee rise, Dr Armstrong 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.”
To quote Dr Armstrong again: “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.”
So what next?
I imagine this conflict will escalate in terms of turning up the volume control. However, in the end, we, the profession, will end up paying. We have no choice, because if we do not pay we cannot practice – full stop!!