Money, Money, Money
DENTAL BULLETIN, ISSUE 15
On 5th February 2016 Dentistry.co.uk reported on the response they had received from the General Dental Council (GDC) to a Freedom of Information Act request. This confirmed that the GDC had spent £449,000 on severance packages for 12 employees between 1st January 2015 and 19th January 2016. That averages out at £37,416.66 per employee, which is more than a year’s salary for most; the average at present being £26,000 per annum.
The GDC has denied that these severance packages were part of a ‘clean up’ of the organisation following the whistleblowing allegations of a former employee, and states the pay outs were due to a huge organisational change and restructure resulting in the redundancies of communications and administration staff.
However, if these were genuine redundancies, why was there a need for a severance package at all? An employee will have no recourse to an Employment Tribunal if a dismissal was on the grounds of redundancy and where the correct procedures have been followed. In fact, Tribunals very rarely go behind the business reason for a redundancy/restructure, as it is accepted that employers are free to carry on their business as they see fit.
Also the amounts paid out seem unusually high when you consider a redundant employee is only entitled to the following:
- A payment in lieu of notice (unless the employee works their notice period);
- Any accrued but untaken holiday pay;
- A statutory redundancy payment calculated as follows:
Gross weekly pay (max. £475) x no. of years’ service
(max. 20) x age related factor
Using the above formula, the current maximum statutory redundancy payment is £14,250, but this would be for an employee who has worked for 20 years or more and is 61 years old or above.
So it seems your Annual Retention Fees are being spent wisely by the GDC!
Redundancy; is it all in a name?
In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of Fitness to Practice hearings brought before the GDC; between 2010 and 2014 the number of hearings increased by 110%. At present it is estimated that a four day Fitness to Practice hearing costs the GDC around £78,000. In fact, the BDA has reported that the GDC is the most expensive healthcare regulator.
On 19th November 2015 the GDC confirmed new powers enabling changes to the Fitness to Practice process would be placed before Parliament. The new arrangements include:
- Case examiners will be appointed at an early stage to investigate complaints;
- Case examiners will be able to agree undertakings with dentists, effectively imposing conditions on practices;
- The power to review closed cases.
Firstly, the appointment of case examiners, on the face of it, appears to be a new part of the investigation process allowing claims to be dealt with early on. However, the current process already allows for early investigations by case workers.
Secondly, what if the dentist does not agree with the case examiner’s findings and does not wish to have an undertaking placed on them. Will they have the right to request that the matter progress to the Investigation Committee? Will more dentists be forced to accept undertakings they do not agree with to avoid the risk of a Fitness to Practice hearing?
The GDC has reported that this new process will save the organisation around £1.8 million a year.
There is currently a consultation being carried out on ‘guidance on agreeing undertakings’ and you can find out more on how to have your say here.
Despite the above comments, in our opinion, if this new process means case examiners will be more equipped to investigate matters early on, and will do so with some common sense, then we welcome the changes. The current process places a great deal of stress on a dentist, especially if the complaint has come from a patient who may not understand what best practice is. If case examiners have some background or knowledge of dentistry then they should, in theory, be able to properly deal with such complaints swiftly.
NHS haemorrhaging costs
Today we see our junior doctors taking further industrial action in response to the new junior contract that the Government is seeking to introduce from August 2016.
There have been recent reports that Jeremy Hunt ‘personally vetoed’ a deal that could have potentially seen an end to the long running row. The proposal, which was cost neutral for the Government, was put forward by the British Medical Association and was seen as ‘an opportunity to resolve the dispute’ by both the NHS Employers organisation and the Department of Health.
Throughout this dispute, the public has been overwhelmed by reports that the NHS is in financial crisis and over budget, with junior doctors being portrayed as rich and money grabbing due to their refusal to accept the new contract.
Which begs the question, if the NHS is haemorrhaging money, why has £4bn been earmarked for IT services?
The Government has committed to making the NHS paperless by 2020 (although this was 2018 during the last term) and £1.8bn has been put aside for this project. The remaining money will be used for cyber security and an online ‘click and collect’ prescription service, among other things.
Whilst IT systems and using technology to streamline processes are important, the care of patients should be the priority for the NHS. It seems the Government has forgotten that the last IT project was abandoned after vast amounts of money were poured into it.
It makes you wonder whether the dispute with the junior doctors is truly on the basis of economics or is politically motivated. What is clear is that the NHS cannot carry on in its current model; perhaps we need to start back at the beginning before targets and management became heavily involved in running our hospitals.
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Laura Pearce, Senior Solicitor