What we want
In the UK, all dentists and dental care professionals are required by law to be a registrant of the General Dental Council (GDC), the regulatory body for dentistry.
We believe patients and practitioners deserve an effective and efficient dental regulator. That’s why, improvement of the regulatory system remains a core issue for us.
The GDC has been working to change its tone and approach towards the dental profession, and its consultation on its corporate strategy for 2020-2022 showed a number of proposals for future work to improve its approach to regulation.
Our response welcomed this more positive approach, but we have also raised concerns about a continuing lack of transparency from the regulator.
We continue to support the principles outlined by the PSA for 'right-touch' regulation: proportionate, consistent, targeted, transparent, accountable and agile. Here’s an overview of our work on this important topic.
The future of dental regulation
The Government launched a wide-ranging consultation on the future of healthcare regulation in March 2021. This considered the legislative framework for all regulators with the aim of streamlining their powers, making regulation more agile and flexible, and addressed some of the issues the GDC has raised over many years regarding its limited ability to modernise.
The approach includes removing many of the things that are currently enshrined in legislation and giving regulators the powers to define their processes in rules. Some proposals are welcome. Others are concerning, particularly those relating to the composition of councils and the protection of function. We’ve outlined their likely impacts on the profession.
Implementation of the proposals will be unlikely for some time, as the Government is undertaking further review of the number of regulators, and whether amalgamation or reduction of organisations would improve the regulatory landscape. We will update you as things progress.
COVID-19 and the dental profession
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the GDC undertook research into the impact of COVID-19 on both the dental profession and dental patients. This highlights the severe financial impact on dental practices and professionals, and the impact of infection control measures on capacity and recovery. It acknowledges that access to dental care has been severely affected and will continue to be for some time.
In December 2020, the GDC's Council reviewed its work and agreed that the Corporate Strategy should be supplemented to account for the current and ongoing effects of the pandemic. They have also committed to doing more work with the BDA and others on stress in the profession.
Reduction of ARF and payment by instalments
The GDC’s Annual Retention Fee (ARF) for dentists was finally reduced for 2020-2022. We’d long argued that the fee was inappropriate.
After many years of campaigning, we also welcomed the news that the GDC agreed to allow payments of the ARF to be made in quarterly instalments. This will help ease the financial burden particularly for recent graduates, who are faced with high levels of debt on graduating and the costs of their indemnity.
Future areas of work
The GDC is currently looking at an approach to defining professionalism; this work will lead to a review of the current Standards for the Dental Team. In addition, the current Scope of Practice document is also under review.
We will participate through individual and group stakeholder meetings in these reviews to ensure the profession’s voice is heard, and expect consultations. We will update our members when progress is made.
Regulation of dental practices across the UK
Dental practices also come under the independent regulators of health and adult social care:
BDA's national offices, we campaign for better regulation in each of the UK's countries.