GDC changes approach to fee setting

Law & Regulation
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New approach to GDC fee setting to be introduced in 2019

In Shifting the balance, the General Dental Council (GDC) said it wanted to develop a new approach to setting fees, which would better explain how and why funds were used, be clearer about how costs were allocated and provide more certainty about the level of fee dental professionals could expect to pay.

The policy, which sets out this new approach, saw a positive response in a public consultation earlier this year, and will be introduced in 2019. It is based on three main principles, and these are:

1. Fee levels should be primarily determined by the cost of regulating each professional group.
2. The method of calculating fee levels should be clear.
3. Decisions on the allocation of costs should not lead to undesirable outcomes (e.g. in the form of unacceptably high or variable costs for some groups of registrants).

There are several changes that will be introduced under these core principles.

Crucially, the GDC is moving to a three-year planning model, which will provide clearer information about the cost of proposed regulatory activity. The plan will inform a three-year costed corporate strategy which will be consulted on before it is approved.

In practice, this means the GDC will set out plans for how it intends to achieve its objectives every three years. Prior to the Strategy being approved, anyone with an interest will have the opportunity to express their views about its high-level aims, and the associated expenditure, which will provide the basis for setting the Annual Retention Fee. The first of these consultations will take place in spring 2019.

Paying by instalments

Another big change will be the elimination of “cross subsidy”, except for instances where doing so will lead to inappropriate or disproportionate outcomes. Cross subsidy happens when the fees paid by one group of dental professionals effectively fund regulatory activity in relation to another.

One example of this currently occurs at first registration, where existing registrants subsidise unsuccessful applications, as no processing fee is charged at present. The specific changes to achieve this will be introduced gradually as plans are developed.

A number of views were also expressed in relation to the payment of fees by instalments, both in the consultation and through other channels. In the newly-published Consultation outcome report, the GDC acknowledges these views and recognises the potential positive impact that paying by instalments could have for dental professionals. It also explains though, that there are some legal ambiguities in relation to this which leaves the position unclear.

The report goes on to say that it remains a complex issue and that more detailed exploration is needed, involving analysis of the legal, financial and operational constraints, assessment of the costs of introducing the facility, proposals for how those costs will be met, and the arrangements that would be needed should a payment be missed.

Ian Brack (top) Chief Executive and Registrar at the GDC, said: “I’d like to thank those who responded to this consultation. We will be consulting on the three-year costed corporate strategy this spring – it will be an unrivalled opportunity to understand and critique the GDC’s strategic priorities, the associated costs, and the use to which cost-savings will be put. We really want to hear the views of the public, the professions and other stakeholders so I hope as many people as possible engage in the process.”

The GDC’s response to views submitted during the consultation and further details of the changes can be downloaded as a pdf by putting Clear and certain: A new framework for fee-setting – Consultation outcome report into your online search engine.