‘Feelings of humiliation and panic’ – why the GDC’s approach to deadlines needs to change

'Feelings of humiliation and panic' – why the GDC's approach to deadlines needs to changeWe hear from a practice owner who explains why the current approach to ARF deadlines is having an ‘irreversible’ impact on those in dentistry.

It was mid-January 2022, from what I remember. The practice manager received a phone call one morning. It was from the GDC, explaining that they wanted to contact the principal dentist who is also the managing director of the business.

We were informed that he hadn’t paid his annual retention fee and, consequently he was de-registered with immediate effect and had to leave the premises. At this point, the principal was with a patient, completely unaware of what was about to take place, and he had a full clinic booked for the next day and the subsequent days as well.

He had to be escorted off the premises like he had done something almost criminal. The feelings of confusion, humiliation and panic cannot truly be explained in words.

Reflecting on it in the immediate aftermath, he realised his ARF payment was originally paid via direct debit, but he had stopped it, intending to pay manually. That was the extent of it. Yet, he was asked to leave the building and was unable to practice until certain requirements were fulfilled.

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From a personal perspective, it was really challenging for him. Informing his patients and colleagues added to the complexity. Initially, we debated whether to inform everyone in the practice. We somehow got through the first week, everyone was asking about his situation as we had said he’d injured his hand while we worked out what to do.

Naturally, his team were concerned for his wellbeing. But a few days later, we decided to tell everyone the truth and all his colleagues and team were extremely supportive and very shocked at the severity of the consequences.

Arduous and frustrating

To say this situation he found himself in is beyond ridiculous would be an understatement. The registration process is arduous, elongated and frustrating. You are left to seek answers through calls and emails – you’re completely left in the dark with little to no sympathy from those with the power to improve the situation.

From what he can see, he received no reminders or emails about late payments. No calls or letters were received. It’s completely unjustifiable for them to make a phone call to ask to remove someone from the building with immediate effect without sufficient communication. The GDC can only be described as short-sighted, operating with a blinkered view of their own processes, which in my opinion, significantly hinders the profession.

The consequences can, for so many people, be irreversible. Fortunately, it didn’t have long-term, adverse effects on him personally or the practice. But the embarrassment of explaining to colleagues and patients was significant. That being said, it was encouraging to see the logical and rational reaction of colleagues. It’s a shame the GDC don’t operate with the same reasoning.

They turn people’s lives upside down and there’s no recompense for it. The potential consequences are huge – dental professionals may have young families, mortgages, financial and caring commitments. It just feels like none of this is considered and it’s just a tick box exercise for them.

This experience highlights why we are wholeheartedly supporting the ‘Saving Grace’ campaign. It is our hope that together, as one voice, this become the voice for change.

Read more about Saving Grace articles here:

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

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