GDC consultation “unlawful” but ARF rise stands

THE planned 54 per cent increase in the General Dental Council’s annual retention fee will go ahead despite a judicial review describing the consultation process as “unlawful”.

Mr Justice Cranston found there was “a gaping hole in the GDC annual retention fee consultation” and that “none of the key information as regards closure rates and fitness to practise trend information was disclosed” during the process.

Despite his criticisms, the judge confirmed the fee regulations for 2014 which means the ARF will rise to £890 in 2015.

The GDC had argued the significant increase was necessary to keep pace with rising demand, saying fitness to practise complaints have gone up by 110 per cent since 2011.

During the review, the GDC’s defence counsel warned the regulator faced potential “administrative chaos” if the fee increase was quashed. Without the increase, the court was told the GDC “will have exhausted its reserves and have no funds at all to continue its work by August 2015.”

Following the ruling, the regulator said: “We acknowledge the court’s view that we could have provided more information to explain our projections for fitness to practise hearings. It is for this reason that the consultation was deemed unlawful.”

It added that it was “pleased [Mr Justice Cranston] also recognised that the GDC has to be properly funded in order to carry out its duties to protect the public and that the error [in the consultation process] was not serious enough to require him to quash the consultation and the new fee.”

The British Dental Association, which initiated judicial review proceedings, hailed the judgement as a “defeat” for the GDC who have been ordered to pay the BDA’s legal costs. But they were critical of the fact that the ARF increase will go ahead, claiming the GDC “gets to keep its ill-gotten gains”.

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: “The chaos at the GDC serves as a warning to all healthcare professionals. The prime minister once called for action on the 'outdated and inflexible' laws applied by our regulators. It's time for the government to honour that pledge, in full."

The deadline for dental professionals to pay the ARF is December 31.

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