John Chope column

Next year’s ARF for dentists is £438 and for DCPs £90. John Chope explains how DCPs can avoid the increase and considers some of the factors influencing the amounts that different registrant groups will pay in the future.

 

How to save £18 per DCP

 

One of the more contentious debates at the GDC occurred at the recent Cardiff Council meeting when the subject of the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) was broached.

The ARF paid by all dental registrants is the sole source of GDC income, but many registrants pay up their ARF with an increasing reluctance. One explanation is the appearance of professional regulation moving away from control by professional members to a sharing with and, perhaps in the future, a shift to control by lay members.

Whilst this evolution is quite reasonably in tune with the expectations of society, we should never forget the innate British distaste for taxation without representation. A solution to this problem could be to charge a GDC tax on the cost of all dental treatment, just imagine how popular that would be with patients and dental professionals! And think of the collection cost which would also need to be reflected in the amount levied. Another option would be for the government to control the purse strings – are there any votes for that one?

To add to this unease, dentist registrants are now beginning to wonder how much of their past contributions, together with the £438 ARF now proposed for 2008, includes a subsidy to other registrant groups for the work involved in getting the DCP registration bonanza off the ground.

Dental nurses have their own concerns and the Council was informed of a letter from the British Association of Dental Nurses explaining their view that the wages received by many of their members would make it difficult for them to find the ARF proposed for next year.

However, the Council was reminded that it would find itself on a hiding to nothing if it attempted to accurately relate the ARF to individual wages. There are members in all groups who have widely differing earnings. Dental nurses are now able to use their registrant status to run a practice or dental corporate, dental technicians earnings can be subject to massive fluctuations and there are examples of very high earning hygienists and low earning dentists, all who confound the stereotypes that are frequently quoted.

For this reason, it has been a long standing GDC policy that the ARF should reflect the actual cost to the Council of each individual registrant group. It may take a year or two before the differential costs settle down to a predictable level and so in the meantime it is not surprising that the various registrant professions will be nervous about the cost of registration for their members.

In the absence of group specific information, the ARF for all Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) will be £90 in 2008. As this increased fee kicks in on 1 January 2008, DCPs who have not yet registered for the first time would be well advised to do so before the end of this year as the 2007 rate of £72 will cover them until 31 July 2009 – a saving of £18.

The main reason for the huge disparity between the ARF paid by dentists and DCPs is the very few current DCP ‘Fitness to Practice’ cases. Hopefully this happy situation will continue, but if any of the DCP groups find that a significant proportion of their members become entangled in the GDC disciplinary processes, they will also find themselves footing the bill for years to come.

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