A new pay-by-instalments option for dental professionals’ annual retention fee (ARF) has been announced by the General Dental Council today – one year since the UK’s first national lockdown.

Also marking the anniversary of the suspension of routine NHS dental services, this change in payment options now means dental professionals can spread the cost over their fee over the year with quarterly Direct Debits.

For dental care professionals (DCPs), this works out as four payments of £28.50 and for dentists it is four payments of £170.

Fiona Ellwood, president of Society of British Dental Nurses, has welcomed the news although acknowledged ‘an element of sadness, knowing that many dental nurses struggled in 2020 at the height of the pandemic – with some even leaving the profession’.

She added: ‘The dental team have been under enormous pressure since the pandemic and this news is certainly one of the positive notes to come from it. I have spoken out about this since 2006/2008 and have also done this on behalf of others, as president of BADN and now of SBDN. The SBDN held several discussions with the GDC throughout the pandemic and continue to engage in the stakeholder meetings, consultations, and research.

'The SBDN has informed members and will be holding its own meetings to look at what this really means for the profession. '

To take advantage of the option in 2021, DCPs need to log in to eGDC from early May and select the quarterly direct debit option no later than 31 May 2021. The regulator is working to get this new option set up and says it will be in touch with DCPs when they are able to sign up.

GDC chief executive and registrar, Ian Brack, said: ‘We know that many dental professionals want more flexibility in how they pay the ARF and so we will be introducing a pay by instalments option. Detailed feasibility work has been completed and work is underway to make the necessary changes to our systems to allow us to offer this to DCPs this year.

‘We expect this work to be complete by early May and DCPs who want to pay quarterly will then need to sign up by 31 May. Detailed guidance will follow nearer the time.’

Dentists who wish to pay their ARF by instalments will be able to select this option later in the year.