In such fast-moving times, it’s important to pause every now and then to take stock of what we’ve achieved. Progress has been made, but on three of our biggest issues – the Financial Support Scheme, support for private practices, and face-to-face treatment guidance - there is a lot more to be done.
The Financial Support Scheme is still a work in progress
Following the April iteration of the Financial Support Scheme (FSS), we made considerable efforts to ensure practitioners with unique individual circumstances have their applications considered fairly. We are disappointed to see that despite the many issues raised with the health authorities in advance of the April FSS, many were not adequately addressed before April’s payments were processed. In addition, the inability of officials to effectively process GDP concerns led to considerable stress.
However, I’m pleased to see there has been some progress. Following our interventions, and political representation right up to ministerial level, a number of our concerns are now being addressed. The Department has refined its approach to dentists who were on maternity during the reference period. Practitioners now have somewhere to direct their concerns, via the
GDS.Correspondence@hscni.net email address, and we have been assured that additional HSCB staff have been put in place to collate and work through individual issues.
"It’s also encouraging to see a backstop payment of £4,247 has now been put in place for GDPs with unique circumstances."
It’s also encouraging to see a backstop payment of £4,247 has now been put in place for GDPs with unique circumstances until their case can be fully worked through. This includes GDPs without historic earnings, those new to the workforce, or who were on maternity in 19/20 with less than three months payments data. We have also asked for greater payments transparency so that practitioners can better understand how their FSS payments have been calculated.
Pushing for further improvements
As a result, the
May version of the FSS – now open, deadline today (7 May 2020) – is an improvement to the April scheme, but many issues still need to be worked through. We want to ensure that no dentist falls through the bureaucratic cracks. We are in regular contact with DoH and HSCB, and we’ve submitted a further list of unresolved issues regarding the FSS.
Of those as yet unresolved issues, we are asking the Department to reconsider its position towards practice owners who are losing out on income due to an associate vacancy, while being expected to shoulder responsibility for those patients.
There are also issues around the calculation of FD payments, and the impact from not recognising the more productive months could have on practice income, and we’ve raised similar productivity arguments for maternity cases.
Campaigning for private dentists
"We’ve also made the case to the NI Executive; and just this week, a private practice reference group under the chairmanship of Susan Nelson has been established."
And NIDPC certainly hasn’t forgotten about the plight of practitioners with a high private reliance. Our BDA campaign secured over 100 MPs, including 8 NI MPs, who have urged the Chancellor to do more to provide a financial safety net for private practices.
We’ve also made the case to the NI Executive; and just this week, a private practice reference group under the chairmanship of Susan Nelson has been established. This will inform the work of NIDPC as we seek to advocate for all practitioners, regardless of their private or health service commitment.
On a final note, I wish to address the issue of face-to-face treatment in dental practices.
We continue to raise member issues with the acting Chief Dental Officer (CDO) on a regular basis. For instance, this week we wrote asking that he provides written confirmation that no practitioner will be pressured into providing face-to-face treatment if, following a full risk assessment, they consider it is unsafe to do so.
We will continue to push for clarity and change on the issues that matter to you. Please keep forwarding any issues you experience with the FSS to your NIDPC representatives and LDC secretaries. Things are changing all the time, so do take a look at our Coronavirus live updates page for insight into the latest developments.
Chair – NI Dental Practice Committee