A survey of dental nurses reveals huge disappointment in the General Dental Council’s lack of help in paying their annual retention fee during COVID-19.

The small-scale rapid survey, conducted by the Society of British Dental Nurses (SBDN) on its Facebook page, suggests 92% of respondents were disappointed with the GDC’s response to requests for assistance by either introducing part payments, moving payment dates or with a fee reduction.

It also shows that 78% of dental nurses believe payment plans would have helped them at this difficult time, with 88% responsible for paying their own annual retention fee (ARF).

Meanwhile, 99% are unhappy that they pay the same ARF as dental hygienists, dental therapists, orthodontic therapists and CDTs.

The deadline for the Annual Renewal period for UK registered dental care professionals (DCPs) was 31 July 2020. To renew their registration, DCPs needed to:

  • make their annual or end-of-cycle CPD statement
  • declare they have, or will have, appropriate indemnity in place
  • pay their Annual Retention Fee (ARF).

Other figures from the SBDN survey showed that:

  • 12.5% of the responders did not reregister
  • 25% of those who reregistered are no longer working as dental nurses
  • 27.5% said COVID-19 had influenced their decisions
  • 30% of those leaving the GDC said they may return
  • 80% know how fees are utilised.

Fiona Ellwood, patron of the SBDN, said: ‘One aspect that has already been noted is the number of people who have left the profession but kept their registration on – and this is likely to skew any registration figures released by the GDC, as this group will show up as still in the profession.

‘Whilst the Society accept this was a very rapid and small-scale survey, it has highlighted a number of things of interest that, in our opinion, need further review.’

A spokesperson for the GDC said: ‘There are a number of processes, which are conducted after the close of the renewal period that will affect the final dental care professionals (DCP) post-renewal total, and we will be publishing the figures once these are complete.

‘What we can say now though is that the proportion of DCPs who have renewed is broadly in line with what we have seen in previous years.’

The GDC has come under fire from various dental representatives for its refusal to make changes to the ARF, including the British Dental Association that suggested the impact will be significant ‘on the most vulnerable of the profession’ – listing DCPs among them.

On the GDC’s decision not to alter its policy of ARF payments in light of the pandemic, a spokesperson said at the time: ‘We still have to carry out our legal duties and we need to ensure we have the financial resilience to do so. Our free reserves provide only limited cover and it would not be prudent to run them down.

‘We know that the decisions not to reduce the ARF further, or to introduce an emergency instalment scheme, will not be welcome ones and they were not reached easily or lightly. But we continue to believe they were the right ones to take.'