GDC fails to provide number of dentists erased for charging ‘top up’ fees

GDC fails to provide number of dentists erased for providing 'top up' fees

The GDC has failed to meet its legal requirement to provide the number of dentists who have been erased for providing ‘top up’ fees in recent years.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, requested that the General Dental Council (GDC) provide information on the number of dental professionals who have been erased or suspended for charges including ‘top up’ fees to patients since 1 April 2006.

This is because 1 April 2006 marked the change in NHS regulations which no longer prohibited charging ‘top-up’ fees.

However, the GDC failed to provide the information requested within the legal time limit of 20 working days.

Delay in response

On the final day of the response window, Thursday 22 June 2023, it said in an email: ‘Unfortunately, I am writing to inform you that there is going to be a delay responding to your request for information.

‘I sincerely apologise for this, but please rest assured that this is being escalated, and we will provide you with a response as soon as possible.’

Legally, when somebody makes an information request to a public body, it is required to let them know in writing whether or not it holds the information.

If it does hold the information then it is required to communicate it to the requestor and provide the information within 20 working days – unless it falls under an exemption listed or if the request qualifies for refusal.

High Court ruling

The request was made following the High Court ruling that NHS regulations do not forbid ‘top-up’ fees after the GDC struck off a dentist.

Lucy Jane Williams, the dentist, was charged with professional misconduct allegations, including charging ‘top-up’ private fees in addition to NHS charges. She had provided three patients with an NHS crown and offered a ceramic crown for an additional top-up.

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The GDC’s Professional Conduct Committee argued that NHS regulations did not allow such mixing, that she had behaved ‘contrary to a fundamental tenet’ of  NHS charging and that she was dishonest. As a result, she was erased from the register.

But after Williams appealed, the High Court confirmed that ‘top-up’ fees were permitted by the NHS regulations, and that mixing NHS and private treatment was allowed – and on the same tooth. As a result, the judge found her erasure to be wrong and ‘procedurally unfair’.

The GDC were contacted for comment. At the time of writing, has still not received a response nor a reason for the delay.

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