The more I think about the General Dental Council, the more I think they resemble the Peaky Blinders.
A simple guide to General Practice in the 'Post' Covid-19 world
General Dental Council - Protecting our income and sometimes the patients.
Dear Mr Brack,
I have previously been a harsh critic of the GDC, especially in the days of the previous registrar. Indeed, I wrote many blogs that were well received by the profession. With the departure of the previous registrar, there was an opportunity for the GDC to begin to repair the damage it had done to the profession by the draconian and inefficient manner in which it had been led.
There appeared to be a time when the new team seemed to be developing a far more appropriate attitude to regulation, and I therefore felt it appropriate to perhaps watch the situation without commenting further. It was disappointing when Jonathan Green left, although I did feel that with you at the head of the Organisation (for indeed it is NOT a business but a QUANGO I think you will find) then there would be a continuation of the bridge building that was sorely needed.
However, whilst there seem to have been some minor improvements, fundamentally there seems to be no real change in the way the GDC wishes to be perceived by the profession and how it executes its statutory duty. Under the aegis of protecting the public, it is actually doing more to negatively affect the public it serves to protect by continuing to prosecute its role in a draconian and often arrogant manner. There is still huge a lack of insight into the damage it is doing to the morale and the well being of its registrants; damage that can be squarely blamed on the actions of the GDC itself.
Because when a profession is so scared of its very shadow that it can no longer function as it is supposed to, then the ONLY thing that will happen is harm to the public. That these professionals are so scared of virtually every treatment they do, every comment they make (including ones like this), and every action they take is a sad indictment of the way that the GDC is systematically destroying the very profession it regulates.
By retaining the ARF at the same level again, with yet another different reason than before, is symptomatic of the disdain and the contempt with which the profession perceive the GDC have for them. The profession are happy to be regulated, but by a fair, just, and right touch regulator. The continued heavy touch that the GDC continues to use cannot continue if the profession is to survive to be allowed to serve its patients as there will come a tipping point where we will no longer be willing to accept the duress of just turning up to work. If we placed a colleague under this type of stress in our workplace then WE would rightly fear being reported to our regulator.
We are human beings who set ourselves out to care for other human beings. There is no higher privilege than to care for another. However, we make mistakes, we are fallible. You are the same as us, a fellow of the Human race.
We rarely do things wrong deliberately, but we shouldn’t live in fear that the next thing we do both privately or in our jobs could end our careers and destroy our lives.
Please think of the damage that is being done to our profession by this apparent continued lack of insight displayed by the GDC.
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! What have I gone and done?
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number One.
I tried so hard to put his interests well before mine,
But he works shifts and wanted me on Sunday at half-nine
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes oh crumbs! Now I’m in the poo!
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Two.
I tried to communicate effectively, I really really did.
But he's a Glaswegian Kiwi and I couldn’t understand what he sid.
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! They’ll hang me from a tree!
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Three.
I thought consent was valid, I really talked it through,
But his Uncle’s anti-fluoride and now they’re going to sue
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! They’ll strike me off for sure
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Four.
His wife checked his appointment, the nurse said he wasn’t in
He was knocking off his secretary, committing carnal sin
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! They’ll boil me alive!
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Five.
Anyone can complain to us, be it grumble, moan or wail
We thought me made it pretty clear, but we don’t have them in Braille!
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! They’ll torture me with sticks!
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Six.
I referred her to a Specialist, one I’ve used a lot,
But she wanted to see another one, and now I’m in a spot
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! This is DLP’s heaven
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Seven
I thought I could root fill a tooth, but I’m not able to you see
There are many many lawyers who know much much more than me!
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! Is another career too late?
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Eight.
I thought her weight loss was down to a calorie controlled diet
I didn’t know she was under stress and I shouldn’t have kept quiet
Does an FtP await me?
Oh cripes, oh crumbs! Open the bottle of wine!
I’ve only gone and broken GDC Principle Number Nine.
I try to be upstanding, honest, good and true,
But I follow the GDC’s example – now that JUST WILL NOT DO!
Does an FtP await me?
I wasn’t going to write any more GDC related blogs for a while, as I don't want to be seen as a one trick pony, but the situation with the GDC is the singular most important thing to have affected our existence as a profession, and continues to have more twists and turns than a white knuckle roller coaster, so my apologies for writing about it again.
Seriously, was anyone surprised by the GDC’s decision to increase the ARF to £890 on the 30th October?
After the sham of a consultation, it’s not entirely surprising that this should be followed by what was probably a sham of a discussion at the Wimpole Street Lublyanka (for those unaware, that was the name of the HQ and prison of the KGB), and an ARF of £890 has been set.
Nothing has really changed though; despite now slightly reducing the amount for DCP’s (the majority being nurses who I suspect have that actually paid for by their practices), this would appear to have been the classic “give ‘em 3 choices and they’ll pick the middle one”.
The BDA is now set on its path for Judicial review; and this will be heard before the 17th December. The BDA stops short of recommending what its members can do up to this point, but If I may suggest the one thing that absolutely everyone can do now is cancel their direct debit, and write themselves a reminder to pay the GDC before the 31st December. That way they CANNOT take the money early, and whilst it may only be three or four weeks more before they can get it, at least if the BDA win the Judicial Review then people wont have to be waiting for a refund from a regulator that has no sense of respect for the profession. You will not be acting illegally, just stopping the GDC from getting its hands on your money sooner. Incidentally, according to a recent freedom of information request, the decision to engage KPMG was a decision taken by the Executive of the GDC and not by the council. One would have thought that engaging a company like KPMG with its associated costs would have been something put to the Council to vote on. Anyhow, the GDC will need even more money to pay for the services of KPMG, and guess what? We get to pay again.
This brings me to the point of this blog.
What would happen if every one of us rang the GDC between Christmas and New Year to pay? If a few thousand registrants rang over that 3 day period it means hundreds of calls would need to be taken every hour by the GDC if they had an 8 hour working day. What if their systems collapsed under the weight of having to take so many online or telephone payments? Apparently they are so arrogant they do not have the facility to take payment in cash, so the very press worthy images of a few hundred dentists turning up with buckets of £1 coins in order to pay are not going to hit the pages of the Daily Mail anytime in the future.
So what’s wrong with paying £10 on each of 89 cheques, and requesting a receipt for each one? Or making multiple credit card payments of the same amount? Given that it is also legal to write a cheque on just about anything, may I suggest that a few 6’x4’ pieces of chipboard, properly filled out with sort codes etc delivered to the GDC in Mid-December from registrants wouldn't go amiss. How about arranging a mass payment in between Christmas and New Year, and on the days that the LAT’s insisted we should all be open for normal business? If just 100 of us turned up and wrote cheques out on pairs of boxer shorts (new ones obviously!) that might get some press attention. All at the same time as they're manning the phones taking the card payments above. One idea being floated on Facebook is getting the GDC’s bank account details and paying them directly by BACs. Its actually quite difficult for the GDC to trace who has paid at their end, but we will all have documentary proof at our end that it has been paid.
All a bit tongue in cheek admittedly, but with a serious side; if the judicial review fails, then we will have to pay this ARF. The BDA will continue the fight I know; but this particular avenue will then have closed, so a little bit of civil (legal) disobedience would show the GDC we are still up for a fight, but just looking for the next opportunity to open up a chink in their armour.
I also think that with Thursday’s decision the position of the remaining dental registrants on the GDC has now become untenable. I’ve stopped short in my past blogs of directly levelling any personal criticism at any members of the council, including the Chair and the Chief Executive. But with the emasculation of the profession so effectively by this council structure and those at its head, and the lack of any PUBLIC individual vocal defence of the profession by those who are members of it on the council, then they can no longer use the excuse of trying to change it from the inside. Thursday’s outcome should surely have delivered that message resoundingly to them. If they were against the ARF rise then they cannot now remain in the council; if they were for it, then they are not representatives of the profession. Either way, that makes their positions untenable. They look to be completely sidelined in the council processes that seem to be railroaded through at the whim of those who appear to be building a personal fiefdom with the seeming remit to destroy the entire profession it regulates. Indeed, they don't appear to write their own articles, as those published recently in the dental press which purported to be from them were 80% similar to one another when run through anti-plagiarism software. I also understand a large amount of the council business is now held behind closed doors, and only lip service is paid to the public aspect of the meetings these days which generally give the appearance of being stage managed for those observing.
As a Yorkshireman from the Loxley valley now living in Derbyshire, and working in Nottinghamshire, one legend that has been very close to me throughout my life is that of Robin Hood. I was brought up a stones throw from one of the reputed birthplaces of Robin of Loxley, am now living near the reputed burial place of Little John at Hathersage, and work close to the Major Oak near Mansfield, and I can see a huge analogy in this story.
We have a Sheriff of Nottingham, collecting taxes from the downtrodden masses, ruled over by a King John figure who’s got no real chance of a proper throne. The peasants don't like either of them but they don't care and keep finding more and more reasons to persecute the peasants whilst charging them for the privilege. This makes the remaining members of the GDC the barons at the table of the Sheriff with no real power whilst paying lip service to the Sheriff and King.
We've then got our Little John and Friar Tuck rolled into one, (ok, so its actually Fat Mick but the sentiment’s the same), and the BDA collectively as our Robin Hood (probably the Errol Flynn one rather than the Kevin Costner one given the size of its cojones recently!). That makes the profession the downtrodden peasants (metaphorically), some of whom became the Merry Men and Women. GDPUK is a collective Will Scarlett as the mouthpiece of a storyteller and bard. Hopefully the righteous King Richard is going to be the judiciary who will hear the BDA’s case.
Robbing the rich to give to the poor? How much money has the GDC had from us over the years? Having enough money to spend on QC’s and £78,000 Fitness to Practice cases over silly matters that should dealt with locally at lower cost to the profession shows it has no respect for the money it is given. It has become like a like a rich man who knows the cost of everything and value of nothing. Whilst its remit is to protect the public, this does not mean it should have the sort of reserves it wants. It should have enough to function effectively and no more.
Legend or not, every version of the story ends the same; good always triumphs over evil; a disorganised band of individuals becomes a force to be reckoned with after starting out with a bit of Civil disobedience and brings down a brutal Fiefdom that sees its subjects as legitimate source of money for its own ends, and for summary punishment at its whim.
At first the people can’t see how they will defeat the Sheriff. But up steps a leader and a small number of supporters. The impetus grows and grows until eventually a tipping point is reached. They eventually win by sticking together and keeping up the pressure. King Richard steps in and justice is restored.
Only we can decide if we let the Sheriff and King try to divide and conquer us. It’s still up to us to unite the profession against the GDC.
So to coin Moyes’ phrase of yesterday; ‘Are We Comfortable with that?’
* Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Having just read the response from the GDC to the BDA’s questions about the Telegraph advert, it would appear that there is a distinct tone of avoiding answering the legitimate questions posed.
Coming from the Chair of the GDC, with his background at the Office of FAIR Trading, this again seems to be at odds with a desire to be open and transparent, and indeed with his recent comments about ‘doing the right thing’.
The admission that the cost of the advertising campaign cost over £27000 should now start a new round of questions to the GDC, since we as registrants are funding this exercise in awareness (the adverts were in Saga Magazine and The Guardian) to a demographic who are largely likely to already know of the mechanisms available to them to complain. In addition, in order to justify any money spent on advertising, this requires some form of review as to its success, so there will be yet more expense following this, otherwise it will have been a total waste of our money. Even if it is reviewed by salaried members of the DCS, whilst doing this pointless analysis, the time spent on this would be better utilised elsewhere.
But more importantly, how would we be treated by the GDC if we avoided answering their questions? We have a regulator who now seems to run itself by a different set of values to those it expects its registrants to adopt.
Far from allaying any of the concerns of the profession, I feel the response from the chair has once again shown the contempt dentists are held in by the GDC.
Like many I am grateful for the services of the GDC. I pay the ARF secure in the knowledge that my patients are safe and the money well spent.
Presently though I feel I have more to thank them for than usual. I hope my readers understand irony ...
Just when the state of the dental profession cannot look more perverse, the GDC have achieved something that the last 8 years of the DH and their man at the helm of the 2006 UDA disaster has failed to cause.
Numerous LDC Conferences calling for this and calling for that – the ever calm and serene profession of dentistry has just adapted and carried on.
Implosion at the BDA and barely an extra glass of claret was supped at the ripples on the water of our profession as calm discussion took place about politics.
A raft of daft changes came along such as the UDA system, the HTM document, the OFT report you all now the form – and we ranted for a few months but quietly took another blow to the body, absorbed the costs and “moved on”.
The public acknowledgement that the Contract Pilots have been a sham and that any changes to come will be merely prototype in nature and at least 2 years down the line. Dentists have had a bit of a cough to their colleagues and carry on, “being busy”.
The dreadful farce of Foundation Dentists lacking places allied to their debt and many were heard to comment widely and indeed care deeply, but the rump of the profession have likely returned to their skate-like lying on the bottom. “They’ll get by” we all thought. “Wouldn’t recommend it to my chidren” we muttered. Next please.
The CQC came over the horizon brandishing a large bill and a lot of empty folders and by and large we have paid the charge and filled the folders, only to carry as before doing what we do – meeting, greeting, interacting with & treating patients with their range of ailments and fears.
Incoming, incoming ...
But the GDC, in their proposed hike of the ARF to £945, allied to a comical consultation so pre-determined as to be reminiscent of a past communist regime have caused the profession to both awaken and threaten to unite in a way never seen before.
Just when it was looking very interesting, the satellite of the GDC, the Dental Complaints Service fire their own salvo at the profession. The DCS may be “at arm’s length” and independent or so they claim – but they are wholly funded by the GDC, ergo our ARF’s – so how independent they are is, shall we say, somewhat debatable.
What effect was intended, I wonder when the DCS took a full page advert in the weekend colour magazine of the Daily Telegraph claiming to act on anything less than COMPLETE satisfaction for every patient.
I have a three letter acronym of my own - FFS!!
Never in 35 years have I seen such united sentiment and anger, perhaps however more importantly associated with individual response and action. The electrons are red hot with e-mails, complaints and letters to MP’s and these bodies. How ironic that when a patient complains about us, we are always assumed to be in the wrong. When we complain about these bodies, they are always correct and indeed learning. Is it just me?
So, what now?
Well this is an unprecedented time, and it will call for unprecedented action.
Perhaps a mass sentiment requires a big organisation to coordinate a big response. There seems to be a widespread sentiment that the GDC has lost completely any confidence it may have had with the profession. Of course they will blandly point to some piece of biased research they did to show how well regarded they are.
They may not realise but the rules have changed and the gloves are off. Big boys games demand big boys rules. And it is the GDC and the DCS who started this.
Who will rid us of this poison organisation, who will deal it a fatal blow, for it is a big monster and well protected by the armour of politics?
We must thank the GDC & DCS – the profession appears to have finally awoken, and if I am not mistaken, this time it is getting to its feet.
Interesting times with a little smoke of excitement. Who will wager what we see next? I won’t!!
Have a good week, worker bees. Tootle pip.
Since news emerged at the very end of June that the General Dental Council [GDC] was planning to raise its annual retention fee [ARF] from £576 to £945 per year for all dentists in the United Kingdom. This coincided with an announcement of a consultation on the matter of this fee, yet the fait accompli of the rise proposed was publicised.
GDC maintains a register of all dentists working in the UK, and it remains illegal to practice any form of dentistry without this registration. This monopoly held by the dental profession is there to protect the public from imposters, and despite this serious registration process there are always queues of impending prosecutions of people who feel they can practice forms of dentistry without a degree, training, nor the proper registration and indemnity cover.
It appears the large rise has been caused by the exponential increase in complaints against dentists administered by the GDC, a very stressful process for dentists who remain innocent until findings are proven. GDC accepts cases, investigates, and will proceed with a risk to the professional future of a dentist even if there is a single incident of complaint. This wall of actions has led to delays and blockages in the GDC processes, something dentists are finding unacceptable, and this is one of the factors behind the social media congregations in the last 48 hours.
GDPUK has had a large rise in visitors, one thread on the topic has had over 90 replies from dentists within 36 hours of the first posting on the topic. Twitter has been ablaze, and on Facebook, one page, The Project, in which dentist Prem-Pal Sehmi has commenced a campaign for colleagues to pay £576 when the ARF becomes due next December has attracted more than 2400 colleagues on Facebook, also within a very short time frame. [At the time of writing]
On twitter this image shows the sort of exchange progressing. The profession is like a bear which has been poked in the eye too many times, says Eddie Crouch of the BDA PEC and Birmingham LDC.
On the Government’s e-petitions page, Dr Vereen Gupta commenced a petition on the matter, and within 24 hours, this has over 5,500 signatories.
Statistics emerging on GDPUK show that the anger is derived from this rise in Fitness to Practice [FtP] cases, which GDC figures state are stand at 3,700 presently. There are around 24,000 dentists in general practice now, so almost 15% have a case against them. Foir na serious and learned profession, this alone shows the system is very wrong.
The Professional Standards Authority, which oversees the GDC, has reported its grave concerns with the running and governance of GDC, which seems to roll along, unfettered.
All the groups must unite and harness the energy being generated on this matter, so it is up to BDA, Facebook groups, GDPUK, Twitter devotees to keep up the pressure, ensure this campaign goes to the heart of its target.