The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned that signals the General Dental Council (GDC) will move to increase the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) will only undermine progress in rebuilding trust and confidence in the regulator among the profession.
Despite significant reserve levels, the regulator has signalled its intentions to raise fees above levels set in 2019, to around £730 (+7%) for dentists and to around £120 (+5%) for dental care professionals, as part of its emerging strategic plan for 2023-25.
The GDC has also pledged to do all they can to keep costs down. But inflation is forecast to continue for some time therefore, the GDC may need to revisit the fee if inflation remains high. Any further increases would be limited to the rate of inflation unless exceptional circumstances arise.
A spokesperson for the GDC said, “This is a consultation on our strategic plans for the next three years and we look forward to hearing the views of everyone who holds an interest in our work, which of course includes dental professionals. Our target is to maintain a free reserve level equivalent to four and a half months of operating costs, and we believe the approach we’ve set out will maintain that level. If we are to continue ensuring patient safety and promoting the confidence that the public rightly have in dental professionals, the GDC must be financially sustainable, and we are not immune to the inflation which is affecting everyone.”
The BDA has stressed this will place needless financial burdens on team members. Associate dentists have seen real incomes fall by nearly 40 per cent in the last decade, with coming recommendations from the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration unlikely to insulate colleagues from a mounting cost of living crisis.
The BDA has said future hikes will inevitably damage goodwill among the profession, despite welcome commitments to improve ‘preventative regulation’, and recent improvements in the regulator's performance in relation to fitness to practice.
Shareena Ilyas, chair of the BDA Ethics, Education and Dental Team Working Group said, "Any hike in the ARF is impossible to justify while the GDC is sitting on vast reserves.
"The costs of providing care are spiralling, while the real incomes for all team members have collapsed. Further fee increases will only undermine any gains when it comes to restoring this profession's confidence in its regulator."
The BDA will provide a full response to the consultation in due course.