The LDC Levy: some useful information for LDCs
Since the introduction of the new dental contract in 2006, and prior to that the growth of PDS pilot schemes working outside the old GDS system, Local Dental Committees have experienced a number of problems with collecting a levy from the dentists whom they represent. Now, in contrast to arrangements under the old GDS, LDCs generally need dentists to sign a mandate in order to collect a levy. LDCs therefore need the cooperation of their PCTs/LHBs in contacting all local dentists.
This advice should not alter any arrangements you might have agreed locally that are working well, as many LDCs have been able to agree with their PCTs/LHBs more convenient procedures. This advice is specifically aimed at those LDCs which need some assistance.
The underpinning legislation
The legislation underpinning the legal status of LDCs and their relationship with their PCTs/LHB is in the NHS Act 2006 which consolidated previous health acts. As well as establishing when PCTs/LHBs might be required to consult with LDCs, the Act also provides for:
Agreeing the constitution: The PCT/LHB must satisfy itself that the LDC is representative of local NHS dentists; in reaching a judgement on this the PCT is likely to take into account the election process for the committee and the fairness of its constitution. This is why the LDC should agree its constitution with the PCT. A model constitution is available within the BDA Secretaries’ Guide, available from the main LDC page of the BDA website.
Agreeing the levy: According to the Act, it is for the PCT to allot sums for the functioning of the LDC, sums which are collected by making deductions from NHS dentists.
For further guidance see Factsheet 16: Local Dental Committees on the Department of Health website.
Local Dental Committees representing dentists
Local Dental Committees may represent:
GDS providers (that is, GDS contract holders)
Dentist working in primary care trust dental services (PCTDS)
The group of dentists missing from this list are PDS providers (that is, PDS contract holders who are not also performers). The reason for this is that, in contrast to the other groups, not all PDS providers have to be dentists (it is possible to hold a PDS contract as a DCP, for example). In addition, LDCs are formally concerned with NHS issues only, so while dentists in fully private practices can get involved with their LDC and make a voluntary contribution, they are not automatically represented by their LDC.
LDCs may collect a levy from all dentists they represent. The difference between the groups listed above is that whilst GDS providers (contract holders) are automatically represented by the LDC and therefore automatically the LDC can collect a statutory levy, GDS performers and PDS performers need actively to state their wish to be represented by paying at the agreed rate of the statutory levy, and to pay an additional voluntary levy, should they wish to do so.
Methods of levy collection
In order to collect a levy from all dentists who can be represented by the LDC – rather than just GDS providers – the dentists will need to sign a mandate. A model mandate is available for download at the bottom of this page.
It is the responsibility of the LDC to send these mandates to all dentists they can represent and to have the forms signed. This may be quite time-consuming for the LDC, especially if dentists need to be reminded to sign and return the form or persuaded of the benefits of joining the LDC. Secretaries should also be aware that some PCTs/LHBs have not carried over existing mandates from the pre-April 2006 system into the new system.
The signed form should be sent to the PCT/LHB, with a copy to the LDC Secretary.
Setting the levy
As has always been the case, the amount to be collected is agreed between the LDC and the PCT/LHB, and that is then collected from dentists either via a flat monthly sum or as a proportion of superannuable earnings.
What the PCT/LHB needs to do
PCTs/LHBs should provide the LDC with regular and updated lists of all local practitioners on their performer list, in order that the LDC is able to contact NHS practitioners. The English Department of Health advises PCTs as follows:
“…LDCs need accurate information about all of the providers and performers of primary dental services in the area… It would therefore be helpful if PCTs provide LDCs with accurate and regularly updated lists of all local providers and performers of dental services, noting which of these dentists has agreed to be represented – and to pay a levy”
Department of Health Factsheet 16: Local Dental Committees
Following receipt of the signed mandates, it is for the PCT/LHB to inform the NHS Business Services Authority of what payments are to be deducted from which providers and performers.
Primary Care Trust Dental Services
Any arrangement for collecting a levy from salaried dental services needs to be agreed between the LDC and the dentists and service in question. A levy would then be deducted directly by the PCT/LHB. In the first instance the LDC should discuss with the service what sort of representation the staff wants from the LDC. Salaried dentists requiring advice and representation in relation to their personal contracts of employment or general service issues will continue to be supported and represented by BDA Accredited Representatives and by the BDA Industrial Relations Team.
What the levy can be spent on
The levy referred to above can be spent on administrative expenses only.
The voluntary levy
The voluntary levy is an additional charge which may be administered by LDCs in any way they wish, to any dentists they wish (and who have consented) and for any purposes they wish. The voluntary levy is commonly used to make donations to the British Dental Guild and the Dentists’ Health Support Programme, as well as to pay speakers at meetings.
There are a number of ways to administer collection of a voluntary levy. It can be done via PCTs and deducted from schedules in a similar way to the statutory levy. Dentists wishing to pay such a voluntary sum would need to sign a mandate to this effect in addition to any statutory amount agreed to. Or it can be organised entirely by the LDC themselves by asking dentists to sign a direct debit mandate form, perhaps administered by a third-party.
However, we would recommend that LDCs who are experiencing difficulties with levy collection consider collecting all funds through a voluntary levy administered by the LDC itself independently of the PCT. This would simplify the administration process surrounding collection of the levies and bypass any difficulties with the PCTs administration processes. It would need to be explained clearly to local dentists in order to avoid any perception of a radical change in procedure from the pre-April 2006 arrangements. It is only a different mechanism for collecting the same contributions. For simplicity of collection, it is advisable that this levy is a fixed amount. LDCs may choose to engage a third party to administer collection of the levy payments via direct debit.
Because the new arrangements mean that it is voluntary for most practitioners to pay the LDC levy, LDCs need to ensure that they are in regular communication with their membership. Some advice and training was provided at LDC Officials’ Day and the material covered is available within the article about the day, in this issue.
Questions and difficulties
Issues around the levy may arise for a variety of reasons. If you are an LDC official and would like some advice or support in how best to resolve any difficulties, please contact Will Newport at the BDA, or call 020 7563 4158.