Last week the Council held a workshop and Council meeting, which involved a range of discussions regarding progress being made against the GDC's key priorities. We were pleased to note that the momentum of change is being maintained and we continue to see sustained improvement in many areas of performance.
Plans to relocate part of the business to Birmingham, which will improve operational cost-effectiveness in the long-term, are on target to meet the scheduled October date for opening. Office space on Colmore Square in central Birmingham has been selected as best meeting our requirements and the fit-out is just about to commence. Recruitment to the roles made vacant by staff not wishing to re-locate has also proved successful. The move is phased to take place at times when there will be minimal impact on our ability to meet our regulatory responsibilities.
In July the GDC announced its intention to keep the ARF at the same level for 2019. Having considered this thoroughly, both the Council and the executive team were agreed that, given the long-term investment that is required to make the essential changes to operations, and the continued uncertainty of the external environment, this was the responsible, prudent decision. We chose to announce this decision early to mitigate uncertainty.
We remain determined to deliver a meaningful reduction in the ARF when this is financially viable and sustainable. In future, the new fee-setting policy, on which we recently consulted, will enable us to set a fee based on planned activity for the coming three years. In the meantime, full consideration is being given to the 100-plus responses received to the consultation on our policy proposals. I'd like to thank all those who contributed, especially the 95 individuals who took the time to do so. We recognise there is support from some registrants for paying their fee by instalments, and we are paying particular attention to exploring this in more detail before we publish our response in the autumn.
The review by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), into the way in which the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) handled the deaths of a mother and 11 babies at Furness General hospital between 2004 and 2013, has resonated with all healthcare regulators. The GDC recognises that the issues raised have direct relevance to the way in which we carry out our Fitness to Practise function and an initial analysis of the findings, and the GDC's response to these lessons, has taken place. In several areas this work is already underway as part of our Shifting the balance programme and the End-to-End Review into Fitness to Practise. However, we are committed to ensuring that our procedures and processes are developed in a way that ensures that patient safety is always the first priority. Further analysis of the initial findings is now underway to look at how lessons can be adapted and incorporated into existing programmes of work.
Patient safety is one of the drivers of the reservations that the Council has regarding Advancing Dental Care, the Health Education England (HEE) report on the skills and composition of the future dental workforce, published in May 2018. The GDC has expressed serious concern, because several of the proposals made by HEE have UK–wide implications upon which we do not believe consensus has been secured, while others relate to areas where HEE is not the responsible statutory body and so are not deliverable without the active cooperation of a number of other organisations; in particular the GDC. That cooperation would require meaningful interaction between HEE and those other bodies, which is not currently occurring. It is also dependent on the existence of consensus across the UK. Additionally, HEE's delivery timetable, which they cannot control, is ambitious and there are elements of it that we consider unrealistically optimistic.
Nicholas Taylor, Chair of the English Dental Deans and HEE representative, attended the Open session of the Council meeting and took part in a discussion of our concerns. We made clear that there are parts of the report that reflect our own thinking and we are keen to contribute constructively to the propositions. Unfortunately, the GDC's significant concerns were not resolved in the Open session and I will be writing to the Chief Dental Officers of the four nations, highlighting our reservations.