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The pitfalls of annual renewal for dentists and DCPs

Each year a large number of dentists are removed from the GDC Register for failure to complete their annual renewal process. We look at the reasons…

Figures requested by this firm under a Freedom of Information request to the General Dental Council (GDC) indicate that each year a large number of dentists and Dental Care Professionals (DCPs) are removed from the GDC Register for failure to complete their annual renewal process. Any dentist or DCP who is removed from the register must cease work immediately and should not resume practice until they receive written confirmation of reinstatement on the register. However, while there may be a large number of removals it is comparatively rare for a dentist or DCP to be prosecuted for illegal practice following an administrative removal, and it appears very unlikely that a dentist or DCP who subsequently applies to re-join the register will be prevented from doing so.

Reasons for failure to complete annual renewal process leading to removal from register

In the years 2016 – 2018 a total of 11,846 dentists and DCPs were removed from the GDC register for failure to complete the annual renewal process.

The reasons for removal are broadly broken down into three separate categories.

  1. Failure to comply with CPD requirements
  2. Failure to comply with indemnities
  3. Non-payment of the annual retention fee

The vast majority of removals stemmed from the administrative issue of non-payment of the annual retention fee, which accounted for 94% of the removals.

Prosecutions for Illegal practice following administrative removal

Despite the number of removals for administrative reasons the risk of prosecution for illegal practice is minimal.   Whilst 11,846 dentists/ DCPs were removed from the register between 2016 and 2018 for failure to complete the annual renewal process only seven dentists who had been administratively removed from the register, at any point in time, were prosecuted for the illegal practice of dentistry.  This figure would equate to just 0.06% of those who have failed to complete the renewal process and suggests that prosecution will only be considered in a minority of cases. Dentists and DCPs who deal with the issue promptly appear unlikely to face charges.

Likelihood of being reinstated on register following an administrative removal

The figures obtained indicate that dentists and DCPs who apply to be reinstated on the register following a removal for failure to complete the annual renewal process are very unlikely to be refused.  Out of those removed between 2016 and 2018 a total of 2,737 applied to be reinstated on the register.  Of these applications 2,710 were successful. This figure is in fact higher when it is considered that a further 25 applications were granted in early 2019.  Again these figures suggest that if a dentist or DCP forgets to complete the annual renewal process it will only be in the most extreme of cases that they are prevented from being reinstated on the register.

Advice for Dentists and DCPs

These figures demonstrate that failures at annual renewal are relatively common. Whilst these figures indicate that the risks associated with failure to comply with GDC renewals process can frequently be mitigated, dentists who forgot to complete their GDC registration should deal with the matter as soon as possible to minimise the risk of prosecution and reduce the risk of remaining off the register. Whilst the risk of criminal prosecution is low, practitioners may find that their administrative failures lead to the opening of a fitness to practise investigation and potential regulatory sanctions.

Registrants should ensure they actively engage with the predictable annual renewal process to avoid removal. Practice Managers should actively review evidence that practitioners remain on the register after their annual renewal date. Where a practitioner learns that they have been administratively removed from the register they should stop practising immediately and take swift action to rectify the position.

For guidance on annual renewal for dental care professionals, contact our primary care solicitors.

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