The British Dental Association (BDA) has submitted an official response to the General Dental Council's (GDC’s) consultation, including an independent financial analysis of the consultation document and other supporting information.
It describes the conclusions in that report as unequivocal and urges the GDC to reconsider its proposal and revert to its established policy of 2010, which would permit a maximum rise in the annual retention fee (ARF) in line with inflation.
In its submission the BDA describes a litany of failings in the way the GDC has gone about its consultation and also condemns the assumptions it has used as the basis for attempting to justify the proposed rise.
It has advised the GDC that if it does not recognise its miscalculation and fails to respond properly to it, the BDA will be forced into using the submission as the basis for a challenge by way of judicial review.
Mick Armstrong, chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee, said: 'The GDC now face a simple choice: step back from this flawed fee rise, or face a legal challenge.
'We are confident in our arguments, and ready to take any and all action necessary to stop it.
'We have sought legal advice and as a consequence of that advice, threatened judicial review proceedings.
'Having heard our views, the GDC firmly rejected them and stood by its original proposals.
'We have commissioned independent experts to critically analyse the GDC’s consultation and those expert findings are utterly damning.
'We have been advised by our lawyers that the content is such that we would have a strong case to challenge the legitimacy and integrity of this consultation.
'If the GDC continues in its obstinate and obdurate rejection of our challenges, we are committed to seeing this through.
'What is really shocking is the fact that if it continues to resist this challenge, the GDC is using registrants’ money in its illogical and dogmatic battling – that damns the GDC still further.
'But it does not have to be too late.
'At what is now "one minute to midnight" we urge the GDC to see sense.'
Key points from The General Dental Council’s Consultation on the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) level for 2015: Advisory Report for the British Dental Association, FTI Consulting, September 2014:
- In FTI’s opinion, the GDC has not adequately explained the financial reasons for the proposed increase to the ARF, or provided sufficient calculations and evidence in support to determine the level of increase required, if any. FTI remains of this view having also considered the additional material set out by the GDC to the BDA on 12 August 2014
- There is no information in support of the GDC’s projections of the number of complaints it will receive in 2014 and 2015, beyond a statement that the predictions are 'based on current trends'. No information is disclosed about actual complaints received in 2014 and there is no explanation regarding why the consultation’s projection of a 17% increase differs from the budget in the 2014 business plan, which assumed 'zero growth in Fitness to Practise cases in 2014 following two years of very significant growth', and which stated: 'It is not unusual for fitness to practise complaint levels to plateau after years of growth.'
- The GDC needs to explain key financial information. For example, the GDC’s projection of a deficit of £5.9 million in 2014 in the consultation document is contrary to a statement in the GDC’s published annual report and accounts for 2013, which was signed on 18 June 2014, less than two weeks before the consultation document was issued: 'Looking forward to 2014, we are predicting a deficit budget amounting to £3.0m, given the need to fund the increasing number of fitness to practise cases, which is the principal driver of costs. The budget assumes that, following two years of very significant growth, the number of new fitness to practise cases received will plateau.'
- The limited information that is provided in relation to the GDC’s fitness to practise function contains apparent internal inconsistencies. For example, the estimated additional £18m needed in fee income to deal with complaints and the prominent statistic regarding the complaints increasing by 110%, both appear to be misstated and inconsistent with other data in the consultation document
- In FTI’s view, there is significant further information that would be necessary to enable those consulted to challenge accuracy and the validity of the financial arguments upon which the proposed increase is based. FTI suggest that this includes: the figures and calculations used for the consultation document, such as the GDC preliminary budget completed in May 2014; updated business plans for future years and the 2014 management accounts; projections of expenditure for 2014 to 2017; fitness to practise expenditure projections; explanation of how the GDC has reviewed adequately its projected activities; and explanations of apparent inconsistencies between the information published in the consultation document and other published information by the GDC. This is not an exhaustive list.