‘I felt guilty and isolated’ – dentist removed from register for forgetting ARF payment

'I felt guilty and isolated' - dentist removed from register for forgetting ARF payment

Dentistry.co.uk speaks to a dentist based in Derbyshire about their own registration troubles and why they believe a mandatory grace period could help reduce unnecessary removals from the register.

I was working full-time in two NHS practices at the time. I had a busy professional schedule and two young children. It was just before Christmas, a chaotic time with presents and school activities.

I had set up a standing order to pay the General Dental Council (GDC) fees, but forgot to return the CPD declaration. It wasn’t a top priority for me at the time, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I knew I had completed the required amount of CPD and paid my ARF so I thought it was all sorted and continued with Christmas preparations. Then in January, I tried to enrol on an online course, but was unable to as my GDC number wasn’t recognised. In a panic, I checked the GDC register and couldn’t find myself listed. It was a huge shock.

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Deprived of care

In tears I phoned the GDC and managed to reach someone, this person was aggressive and extremely unhelpful. He basically told me I had broken the law and could go to jail. It was a very serious situation in his eyes. He wasn’t interested in my situation or anything I tried to say and didn’t bother explaining why this had happened or how to get myself reinstated.

As I wasn’t registered with the GDC, I couldn’t work, which meant that all my patients had to be cancelled at short notice for an unknown period of time. Inevitably these patients were deprived of routine and emergency care while I sought to reregister.

Obviously, as I wasn’t working, I wasn’t earning, so neither were the principals of the practices I worked for. However, my support staff and surgery bills still needed to be paid.

After several weeks I eventually got back on the register, but it was a longwinded ‘tick box’ process, with no consideration of patient care. I had to submit my CPD certificates in triplicate by mail, since it was a while ago and online submissions weren’t an option, and pay my ARF again.

Incredibly isolated

At the request of the GDC, I made a trip to London to try to speed up my reregistration, but this was unhelpful. It was a hassle, to say the least.

The whole experience left me feeling incredibly guilty and isolated. I was made to feel like I had committed a terrible offence. The rumours were rife, even among my professional peers. It was a horrible time through which the GDC showed no understanding, leniency or support, and were totally unsympathetic, treating me like a criminal.

I had been on the register for 10 plus years, and had lived at the same address but the GDC failed to notify me of their intention to deregister me.

I think, then as now, the GDC should be more empathetic and considerate, especially for long-standing professionals with a clean track record. Life can throw unexpected challenges our way and it is ridiculous that dentists should have their livelihood taken away for minor administrative oversights.

A lot happens in a person’s life and I feel that the GDC has a duty of care to its providers to investigate the circumstances of why a professional who’s been on the register for years, pays their ARF but doesn’t complete the registration process correctly. Why has this person not renewed? Could they have a problem?

Finally, I would add that it was not just me who was penalised for my omission, but the principals of the practices, my support staff, my family but, most of all, my patients.

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