Michael Watson reviews the increased ARF announced by the GDC

shutterstock_221639947Last week, as everyone in dentistry now knows, the General Dental Council (GDC) voted to sharply increase the amount dentists pay in their annual retention fee (ARF).

The GDC’s rationale boils down to two main reasons: there has been no increase for four years but the number of complaints it has to deal with has risen dramatically.

The BDA (British Dental Association) has debunked the GDC’s reasons, but still the GDC ploughed on oblivious to the protests of the profession and the resignation of one its dentist members on the council.

Also last week a report was issued by the Health Service Ombudsman, which gave details of complaints it had handled this year.

These included a few from dentistry, but compared with others in the NHS our shortcomings were few, although important to the patients involved.

The Ombudsman’s approach is significantly different from the GDC’s, a glance at its website’s home page indicates.

It says: ‘Before you bring your complaint to us, you should complain to the organisation you are unhappy with first (their emphasis) and give them a chance to put things right.’

The GDC has no such message; if it did it might read: ‘Bring us your complaint and we will make sure we will nail the errant dentist and make sure you can sue for the maximum amount of money.’

The Ombudsman’s approach to the complaints it lists is also different.

It holds the practice, not the individual, responsible.

It will investigate and if it finds the complaint justified (it doesn’t always), it will extract an apology and some modest compensation from the practice.

But the Ombudsman is no pushover, it can be tough, especially with poor hospitals where patients’ lives are compromised.

I am sure that having a complaint raised against you via the Ombudsman is an unpleasant experience for the dentist involved, but it looks a great deal fairer than the GDC’s approach and is done at the taxpayers’ expense.

The GDC has lost the confidence of the profession.

It needs to wake up and realise that it is not a complaints bureau but is there to make sure that dangerous dentists are not allowed to practise, that’s all.

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