Retiring from practice

It is important that these things are taken care of in a manner that complies with the GDC's guidelines and your contractual responsibilities.

The following DDU advice is a great place to start.

Informing the primary care organisation (PCO) and patients

First, a dentist will be expected to inform the local PCO and agree a date for departure from the practice and removal from the performer's list. There will be a notice period, which is stipulated in the provider's contract, which should be followed. The National Health Service (General Dental Services Contracts) Regulations 2005 state:
 
66. - (1) A contractor may terminate the contract by serving notice in writing on the Primary Care Trust at any time
 
66. - (2) Where a contractor serves notice pursuant to sub-paragraph (i), the contract shall terminate on a date three months after the date on which notice is served ("the termination date"), save that if the termination date is not the last calendar day of the month, the contract shall instead terminate on the last calendar day of the month in which the termination date falls.
 
The GDC also expects dentists to inform patients of their retirement along with any arrangements that have been made for their continuing care - for example, if another dentist will be taking over the practice or if the practice will close and their treatment will transfer to another practitioner.

Record keeping

 Patient records are an important consideration for dental professionals closing a practice. It is expected that adult dental records are kept for a minimum of 11 years after the date of the last entry and in the case of minors under the age of 18 years, they should either be kept for 11 years after the date of the last entry or until the patient is aged 25 years - whichever is the longer period.

In the case of a patient where there has been an adverse incident or complaint, the DDU recommends that the records are retained indefinitely, even if the matter appeared to be satisfactorily resolved at the time. This will help protect the dental professionals involved should anything further happen regarding the incident in the future.

It is important that even after retirement patient records are stored in a manner which protects confidentiality. The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) states that appropriate technical and organisational measures should be taken against accidental loss or damage of or to personal data (DPA, Principle 7).
 
Many dental professionals will opt to use a commercial archiving facility, while others chose to store them at home. It is important that however they are stored they are secure and accessible should they need to be accessed in order to respond to a complaint or claim.

If the practice is not closed but sold on, it is important that the solicitors acting for the vendor incorporate into the sales agreement a clause for records to be retained by the new owner for the minimum periods outlined previously and for the vendor to be given reasonable access to them.

The importance of confidentiality extends to the disposal of records and when they are disposed of it is important that this is done in a manner that ensures confidentiality is protected and in accordance with national and local waste disposal requirements.

Business and administration

 In addition to patients and the PCO, it is also important that dental professionals seek appropriate legal and accounting advice on matters such as winding up a company and submitting final accounts, termination or transfer of staff contracts and any redundancy pay.

The Dentists' Register

 If a dentist is permanently retiring it is not necessary to remain on the Dentists' Register. However, it is advisable to be sure you have no plans to return to the profession in another guise such as locum work or writing expert reports. Once removed from the Register, dentists who wish to be restored have to reapply, a process that involves providing evidence of good health and character, and compliance with the GDC's Recertification CPD Requirements, as well as paying a restoration fee to the GDC.

Membership of the DDU

 Once a dental professional retires from dentistry, it is not necessary to continue paying DDU subscriptions. The membership department should be notified of the date of a dental professional's last working day and membership will be transferred to a free-of-charge retired membership category, which includes continuing to receive copies of DDU publications, as well as cover for Good Samaritan acts.

Access to discretionary assistance will remain for clinical procedures carried out up until the date of retirement. Retirement cover for clinical negligence claims is also provided under the policy of insurance1 that members receive as a benefit of membership for a period of 10 years from the date of retirement, meaning that provided you do not practise dentistry or provide professional services during the continuation period, you will continue to be covered by insured indemnity for those 10 years, and thereafter you still have access to the traditional discretionary benefits of membership, including indemnity.

  1. Policy issued by SCOR UK Company Limited and International Insurance Company of Hannover Limited.

This page was correct at publication on 24/06/2011. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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