The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant effect on our lives. I am very aware that the effect of the suspension of routine dental care and services is severe and that it has prevented you providing the patient treatment and care you want to – and in some cases has caused financial difficulties. We have been asked whether the GDC could respond by making changes to the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) paid by all dental professionals or by introducing an emergency payment by instalments scheme.
The Council has thought carefully about the options available to us, but we have decided not to make changes to the ARF levels or to introduce a payment scheme. These are not decisions we have taken lightly, and I know they won’t be welcomed by some of those we regulate, so I want to be clear about the reasons why we have made them.
The work we have to do, which is laid down in law, has not fundamentally changed. We are required to remain financially stable and to meet our statutory obligations to ensure the public are protected and confidence in the professions is maintained.
Nearly all our income comes from the ARF collection. By revising our regulatory approach and increasing our efficiency, we have been able to secure greater value for money and reduce the ARF – and we hope to continue along this path. But we don't want to make changes now that we can’t sustain, and which might lead to inefficiency and increased costs in the future. We are looking hard at the way we deliver our services, both during the current emergency and beyond. One example of that is that we have rapidly developed ways of running hearings remotely. That could eventually lead to a permanent reduction in our costs, and if it does, that reduction will be reflected in the fees we charge in future.
For the time being though, significant uncertainty remains about the months ahead and it is just too early to predict what is going to happen – to the sector as a whole or to the GDC. So, it would be imprudent to make changes which might not be sustainable, or which have the potential to add further risks or cost to what we do.
In looking at the options available to us, we were also aware that even changes with very significant negative impacts on the GDC would make only a small difference to the level of the ARF. Only the government is in a position to provide financial support to the professions and they have chosen to do so both through NHS contract arrangements and by more general support to employers and businesses. I am very aware that the benefits of that have been felt unevenly, particularly by those outside the scope of NHS contract support, but the level of the ARF is not an effective way of addressing that issue.
I very much want to see a return to healthy, safe and successful dental services, as I know you do too, and I look forward to your being able once again to offer your patients the full range of care and treatment they need.
Dr William Moyes
Chair, General Dental Council