Supporting all dental practices
One of the key challenges faced by the dental profession throughout everything this year, has been the disjointed support available – especially for mixed and private practices. As such, there have been many calls for increased coherence from the government.
The latest push is in response to an investigation into the impact of the first wave of COVID-19 on mixed NHS/private dental practices in the UK. The report[i] was conducted by an independent short life working group at the invitation of the Chief Dental Officer for England and represented all areas of the modern sector with various associations and organisations participating, including the ADG, BADN, BADT, BAPD, BDA, BDIA, BIDST, BSDHT, DLA, FGDP, NASDAL, NHS BSA and SBDN.
Key findings from the published report highlighted the likely financial strain on high street dental practices and laboratories in the months to come. It was optimistic that the risk of insolvency remained low, but the need for careful management and nationwide support would be crucial. The short life working group recommended “a robust and timely support package” that could involve an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the dental industry, eligibility for business rate relief for all dental practices, support for laboratories that service the NHS and funding for urgent research into fallow time post AGPs.
All data in the report was collected from surveys by the BDA in England, which found:[ii]
- 66% of practices are running at under 25% capacity post-pandemic
- 79% of practices are likely or extremely likely to face financial difficulty in 3-6 months
- 54% of practices are not confident they will maintain current staffing levels over the next year
- 78% of practices believe fallow time is the greatest challenge in their recovery
The BDA penned an open letter to Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, requesting urgent action to be taken. It sought to highlight the findings of the report and emphasise the importance of greater support for practices so as not to detrimentally affect patient access to essential dental health care in England. Martin Woodrow, BDA Chief Executive, said:
“Patient access to dentistry remains limited, and we face a real risk of deep health inequalities widening. The measured view of this paper is that a vital healthcare service – now operating at a fraction of its former capacity – requires urgent support. While short term assistance has been offered to NHS contractors, private providers – who make up the majority of dentists given that most practices operate as a ‘mixed’ economy – have largely had to go it alone… We urge the Treasury to take heed, and offer a clear plan to keep dentistry afloat.”
There can be no doubt that the dental profession has a tough road ahead, but the availability of additional financial support would go a long way to helping practices deliver the dental services so many patients need post-lockdown. Let us hope that if we come together as a profession once again, our combined voices will be loud enough to ignite change and secure the future of the UK dental profession.
[i] Investigation into the resilience of mixed NHS/Private dental practices following the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 27th August 2020. https://bda.org/advice/Coronavirus/Documents/Investigation-into-the-resilience-of-mixed-dental-practices-following-the-first-wave-of-the-COVID-19-pandemic.pdf [Accessed September 2020]
[ii] BDA. BDA calls on Sunak to set out action plan for service. 1st September 2020. https://bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/Pages/BDA-calls-on-Sunak-to-set-out-action-plan-for-service.aspx [Accessed September 2020]