GDC receives rap from MP

GDCA health minister has rapped the General Dental Council (GDC) for its huge fee hike for dentists – branding it ‘unprecedented’ and urging a rethink.

Answering a Commons debate, Dan Poulter heavily criticised the regulator for failing to produce any ‘compelling evidence’ that the increases were needed.

Mr Poulter also argued the GDC was poised to benefit from a shake-up expected to deliver £2m annual efficiency savings, which made the fee rise ‘all the more surprising’.

And he said he was ‘sympathetic to’ the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) campaign against higher fees, which will reach the High Court next Monday.

Mr Poulter told MPs he had no legal power to intervene over the 55% rise in the annual registration fee for dentists – from £576 to £890.

But he said: ‘We do not expect registration fees to increase unless there is a clear and strong case that the increase is essential to ensure the exercise of statutory duties.

‘The GDC stated to me as justification, a 110% increase in the number of complaints and that the cost of handling such complaints has been the key driver of the increase.

‘However, I have not been presented with what I consider to be compelling evidence that a fee rise of that magnitude is justified by a 110% increase in the number of complaints.’

The minister said ‘other health care regulators have experienced increases in complaints but have not felt compelled to raise their fees to the same extent’.

And he pointed out: ‘The proposed fee is more than double the £390 that the General Medical Council requires licensed doctors to pay.

‘The GDC’s fee rise is unprecedentedly large, and its behaviour is not consistent or in keeping with that of any of the other health care regulators, from what I can see.’

The comments were understood to have angered representatives of the GDC who were watching the debate from the public gallery in Westminster Hall.

And they were seen by campaigners as useful ammunition ahead of the judicial review proceedings, initiated by the BDA, which are due to be settled in a single day.

During the debate, Mr Poulter also referred to the GDC’s ‘less than complementary performance review by the Professional Standards Authority’.

And he proposed a lower rate for newly qualified dentists – arguing new doctors paid only £185, while their counterparts in dentistry paid the same rate as established dentists.

The £2m savings will come from a ‘section 60 order currently in progress’, Mr Poulter said, adding: ‘When costs are reduced, we would always expect the savings to be passed on to the people who pay the annual fee.’

The level of the retention fee was a ‘very important issue that I am sure is filling many MPs’ postbags’.

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