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BDA calls for ARF cut

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BDA claims GDC offers "new excuses when old ones have worn thin", GDC says risks are real

The British Dental Association (BDA) has responded to an interview with Ian Brack, in which the GDC Chief Executive revealed the Annual Retention Fee (ARF) will remain unchanged at £890 in 2019. 

It claims the regulator has offered no detailed rationale for the move, offering instead a series of claims on uncertainty and future risk.

The BDA then slammed the lack of transparency over the process, saying fee levels should be debated and determined in a Council meeting open to the public, linked to a budget and business plan. The BDA had already told the regulator in response to its consultation Clear and certain: A new framework for fee-setting, that not consulting registrants on fee levels again was unacceptable.

The Council has not yet published its evaluation and response to the consultation. The BDA says the profession’s trust in the regulator remains as low as ever due to its approach to fee setting and handling – and continuing lack of transparency. The Association says, "Fees remain the highest of all the UK health regulators and continue to be used to top-up reserves, well beyond the regulator’s own stated requirements." 

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong (top) said: “The £890 ARF symbolises the GDC’s cavalier disregard for the profession it regulates, offering new excuses when the old ones have worn thin.

“We require a regulator prepared to live within its means, willing to approach upstreaming and contingency planning with a cool head. Instead we have a body that puts padding out war chests above all else.

“We have long argued that the GDC’s approach to its reserves is fundamentally flawed, but even by their own measure, they now exceed their required need. The levels of uncertainty are the same for all the regulators, yet nobody else seems to be arguing in this way.

“The Overseas Registration Exam – and any new approach to registering EU nationals if necessary – should be self-financing. Yes, there may be overheads, but the bottom line is existing registrants should not have to fund registration costs for new registrants. It is simply not a good enough excuse to hoard our cash.

“When the budget for 2019 hasn’t even been formally agreed by the Council, it is not a good look for the GDC’s Chief Executive to unveil the figures in this manner. The serious concerns about transparency that we keep raising continue and increase. The ARF hasn’t changed, and neither has this profession’s trust or confidence in its regulator. The case for a significant fee cut remains, a coherent argument for a freeze has not been offered.”

A spokesperson for the GDC responded: “The GDC is facing specific external risks at a time when it is making significant investment for long-term improvement and efficiency.

“It’s disappointing because real improvements have been made but the risks are real, and they must be planned for. In the first half of next year, we are consulting on our three-year costed corporate strategy. The activity we propose there will tell us what the ARF level will need to be to carry out that work, and we look forward to the debate that will bring.”

 

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