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Local Dental Committees 

General Dental Council Concerns 

Introduction 

PLMR met on Friday 5th September with a small group of dentists, concerned about recent actions 

being taken by the General Dental Council (GDC). In the course of that discussion a strategy 

framework was developed for communicating those views clearly and effectively over the coming 

months, in such a way as to act as a catalyst for change in the sector in the interests of providing 

better care for patients. The following note sets out the broad framework for such an initiative and 

the associated costs.  

The recent activities of the GDC have been the subject of open letters from large groups of Dentists 

as represented by the Local Dental Committees (LDCs). The LDCs are concerned about a number of 

issues that can be broadly summarised as follows: 

A 64% increase in registration fees 

An advertising campaign to solicit complaints from patients 

The Chair of the GDC not being a practising or former dentist 

Dentists no longer have the ability to elect the Chair of the GDC, who instead is appointed 

Objectives 

The objectives of this initiative would be to: 

Secure a much lower increase in registration fees, more in line with the rate of inflation 

Increase the local resolution of complaints 

Bring about a change of leadership within the General Dental Council 

Secure a return to a system of election for the Chair of the General Dental Council  

A new fairer contract for delivering dental services within the NHS 

 

Strategy 

The objectives set out above will only be achieved with a considerably raised level of public and 

political awareness of the issues facing dentistry. At present the dispute has received little media or 

Ministerial attention. Responses received have been less than encouraging. To achieve any 

likelihood of change there will need to be a considerable rising of the temperature by setting in train 

a selection of co-ordinated events and related PR activities including, for example: 

A special conference of the Local Dental Committees 

o This unprecedented event would generate a significant news hook and an 

opportunity to create a moment or two of drama around the issues.  

A survey of dentists attitudes towards remaining in the profession as a result of these issues 

o The results of such a survey could generate further coverage of the issue in the press 

and give opportunities to further promote the results of the recent BDA survey. 

Highlighting the period of ten days when the GDC is set to have insufficient funds to function 

properly, before the new charges set in 

Generating case studies of dentists set to leave the profession, emigrate or cease delivering 

NHS care as a result of the changes 

Staging a Dentists Demo From Wimpole Street to Whitehall and Westminster 

PR activities highlighting the huge increase in costs at the GDC (845% in ten years?) 

Holding a Parliamentary event targeting backbenchers in marginal constituencies – 

approaching them via dentists practising in their seats 

Running a co-ordinated email your MP campaign with a view to provoking a series of 

parliamentary questions designed to put direct pressure on Ministers to review the situation 

Scrutinising the performance of the GDA against typical regulator standards and releasing 

any findings with associated comment to the media 

Identifying creative ways of highlighting the anger and resentment in the profession, with 

some level of non-cooperation with the GDA 

All the above activities, scheduled in quick succession, will result in high level ministerial attention 

being given to the issue. They will be seized upon by shadow ministers and health reporters and 

columnists. With luck a wider audience will begin to appreciate the anger being felt within the 

profession. Eventually a sense that ‘something must be done’ will emerge.  

As the General Election approaches there will be a strong desire amongst Conservative strategists to 

quickly sort out any high profile examples of the government appearing to be incompetent. Senior 

Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby is keen to scrape off any ‘barnacles’ that might be attached to 

the hull of the good ship Tory Victory. The aim of this initiative would be to become a big enough 

barnacle to become noticed and dealt with.  

Campaign key message 

A dental profession run and regulated by dentists is better for patient care. 

Working together 

This campaign will depend on a consistent drip feed of media stories. For this to work we need to 

make sure that the stories we are selling in are strong enough to make it into the national news.  

There may be a need for a further planning session with dentist colleagues to agree the lines we can 

take, any research we will need to generate and any added elements of colour and human interest 

to beef stories out. Those we have met so far have given us the impression they are willing to be 

bold and newsworthy. This will be vital for the success of the campaign. We will also need to prepare 

for and take careful steps to prevent any backlash against the profession.  

The media campaign will need to be meticulously thought through in advance. To maximise impact 

exclusive deals with broadcasters and key publications will need to be carefully planned. Well placed 

stories with influential journalists will help to raise the profile. Sky News and Radio 4’s Today 

programme are key agenda setting news outlets. Other papers will be key for highlighting the 

growing sense of disquiet.  

It will be important to identify early on who will be a spokesperson for the campaign or which few. 

They need to be ready to comment at a drop of a hat and rapid sign off processes will be required 

for getting quotes into the media. PLMR will also be able to provide media training for whichever 

spokespeople are appointed.  

A similar level of speedy liaison will be required for MP engagement and PLMR will need access to 

the diaries of key campaign individuals when securing ministerial meetings.  

 

Survey Data 

The proposed survey of dentists will require careful management to ensure that the results are 

newsworthy and robust enough to withstand detailed scrutiny. PLMR will work closely with the local 

dental committees to draft and test any survey and analyse the results to ensure that they are 

recognised to be valid and accurate.  

Targeting Marginal Constituencies 

MPs and candidates in marginal constituencies hold particular sway over their parties at this stage in 

the electoral cycle. PLMR has an excellent working relationship with ComRes who conduct regular 

‘Omnibus’ polling in battleground seats. A quick poll here would help to show how influential 

dentistry issues could be on the result of the election, and help to focus political minds.  

PLMR will map out the health connections of candidates in marginal constituencies and this 

information can be used to further target efforts.  

Social media 

Within the time frame available, an intensive, integrated social media campaign will be an essential 

element for success.  Mechanisms for people to share information rapidly about the campaign will 

be built in at every stage. The campaign will need a microsite or blog to act as a central hub for 

stories about the GDC and for dentists to keep up to date with progress. We will want to establish a 

good working relationship with the BDA to draw on their resources and social media footprint.  

 

 

 

Conclusion 

PLMR firmly believes that there is huge scope for a successful campaign to force the GDC to at least 

think again on its charging and complaints policies and potentially for other more fundamental 

changes to be secured. At the very least, the current set of circumstances creates an excellent 

opportunities for Dentists to be heard clearly and to put down a strong marker for future encounters 

with regulators and the government.  

In our experience a campaign of this sort will take a fairly high level of resourcing over a short period 

of time. Our estimate at this stage is that the campaign could successfully be run at a fee level of £8k 

per month with a view to achieving tangible results over a 4 to 6 month timescale. This would enable 

us to devote in the region of 45 consultancy hours per month to the campaign at our aggregated fee 

rate of £180 per hour, and would ensure that you had a dedicated team in place to react rapidly to 

media and political opportunities.  

You will have a dedicated team of consultants at your disposal throughout the campaign, with 

experience of running similar successful lobbying campaigns in the past. They in turn will be able to 

draw on our company wide team of over 35 individual consultants with decades of experience in the 

political and PR arena.  

We recognise the importance of moving quickly with this campaign as events shift on a daily basis. 

The opportunity to capitalise on the huge disquiet within the profession is now and consultation and 

constitutional deadlines are fast approaching. To that end PLMR is on hand and available to start 

work on this campaign at a moment’s notice. We are hugely looking forward to working with you. 

Yours sincerely, 

Steven Gauge   Danny Wilding 

For and on behalf of PLMR 

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