‘Do I find work outside of dentistry?’ – dentist reveals 10-week wait to be reinstated on register

'Do I find work outside of dentistry?' – dentist reveals 10-week wait to be reinstated on register

‘It’s important that we make more efforts to humanise dentistry’ after just missing the ARF payment deadline in 2022, one dentist explains how it took its toll on her and her patients following a 10-week process to get reinstated.

I had only very briefly missed the General Dental Council (GDC) registration payment deadline when I contacted the GDC. The hope was that I could make the payment over the telephone, only to be informed I would be taken off the GDC register and it would take 10 to 14 days for the restoration process to be completed. 

I promptly informed my practices of the situation, cancelled my patients for the first week of January and sent off all the documentation required to be reinstated on the GDC register.

At this point, I was told that there was a backlog of applicants but could not be given a timeframe of how long. I would frequently call and send emails for an update on the progress. 

Please join us in advocating for this crucial reform by signing our Saving Grace petition today. More than 1,000 dental professionals have signed so far: www.bit.ly/saving-grace-dentistry. 

Main challenge

At first things seemed promising, so my practices agreed to periodically pushing back patient appointments. However, three to four weeks in, the only explanation I was given was still the same – ‘there is a backlog and I can’t be given a time frame’.

By this point the situation seemed much less hopeful. With no timeframe, I just couldn’t see a way out or come up with a practical solution. I asked my indemnity provider, peers and colleagues for advice; all to no avail. All in all, what was meant to take 10 to 14 days took 10 weeks. 

With unplanned leave from work, there was no longer a main stream of income. The main challenge personally was the lack of certainty. It made it very difficult to plan. I considered looking for work outside of dentistry, but decided not to because I wanted to get back to work as soon as the restoration process was complete.

‘Increasingly disheartening’

Financially, it was challenging as I had to draw on reserves and my expenses still had to be accounted for. The timing alone of this experience was particularly inconvenient due to the upcoming January tax bill. 

The impact on me professionally was challenging, too. I had big treatment plans cancelled and patients who I wanted to see personally were passed onto other colleagues to complete their treatment. I had to reorganise my list, so returning to my projected earnings did not happen immediately. I also had to cancel professional development courses during my time off the GDC register.

Mentally, the uncertainty of not knowing when I could return became increasingly disheartening. There was a huge sense of shame and guilt, that one small oversight could have such a big impact. I felt I had to hide what I was going through, for the fear of being judged. 

Need for vulnerability

What was particularly interesting in the whole experience was the response from different practices throughout the experience. One practice took a very open approach to the situation, facilitating encouraging and supportive conversations throughout the time I was waiting to be restored. This gave me hope and confidence that on the other side of this, things would be okay.

In contrast, the other practice advised that I do not share what’s happened with anyone in the team. I knew this team’s intentions were completely in the best place.

Unfortunately, this only led to more questions and frustrations from the team having to give limited excuses to my patients for my absence. The experience of dealing with the different teams allowed me to see there is need for more openness and vulnerability within dentistry for individuals to thrive despite challenging setbacks.

Humanise dentistry

I am supporting the Saving Grace campaign because it’s important that we make more efforts to humanise dentistry. The GDC has its place to ‘protect patients’.

However, the failure to triage ‘administrative’ cases promptly, impacts not only the clinician and their patient base, but the entire dental team. I believe changes in the GDC registration process could mean that the dental community could start to gain a little confidence that the GDC could possibly empathise with clinicians. 

Introducing a post-registration deadline grace period would mean that the existing shortage of dental nurses is not further exacerbated. There are some practices already surviving on paying locum dental nurses. If one member of permanent staff is absent for a significant period of time (dentist, hygiene and therapist or dental nurse), patient treatments and bookings will be impacted. This will inherently cause stress to all involved. There is also the impact of staff morale and wellbeing. 

The professional, mental and financial impact of persevering through the restoration process is immense. It impacts the individual’s family and loved ones who support them through the process. 

My hope is that, through the Saving Grace campaign, one powerful voice will be heard by the GDC. The voice of individuals lobbying alone is not enough to bring changes from the GDC; but the voice of many collectively just might.

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Get involved! If you would like to write an article for the campaign, please email [email protected].

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