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Coronavirus: Our campaign to help private dental practices

Blog Author Martin Woodrow, Chief Executive BDA

Blog Date 28/04/2020

Our CEO Martin Woodrow explains why the BDA is fighting for private practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and how our campaign is having an impact.  


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The BDA's focus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect dentists and patients and safeguard the future of dental surgeries. We have persistently fought the issues that matter to you. Our work on NHS and mixed practices has culminated in new financial support packages and schemes. However, despite our efforts, the government have continued to overlook private practices and associates who provide private care.

 

Private practice remains a core concern for the BDA. We are undeterred and will continue to press the government for an equitable resolution. Here is an overview of how we are working to make this resolution a reality.  


Influencing political debate at a national and regional level

We have been writing to the Chancellor on a regular basis to stress that unless urgent action is taken many dental practices across the country will not recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

 

By harnessing the growing momentum from our campaign we have now garnered cross-party support for private practices. On Tuesday 21st April, 101 MPs from across the political spectrum came together and signed our letter to the Chancellor, calling on the government to recognise the risk faced by the dental industry and, most particularly, private practices. 


Our requests were as follows: 

  • Raise the £50,000 cap on support through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme
  • Ensure easier access to the CBIL scheme
  • Extend business rates relief to all practices
"The Chancellor's deal has left the UK's dental services dangerously exposed"

As our chairman, Mick Armstrong, stated: "The Chancellor's deal has left the UK's dental services dangerously exposed. Dedicated health professionals aren't looking for special treatment. We just need the same support that's been given to our neighbours on the high street". 


One week later we were pleased to see 28 Conservative MPs from across England sent a further message to the Chancellor asking for relief from business rates to be extended to mixed and private dental practices. In their letter to Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, they echoed our message, noting:

  

"By extending the business rate relief, the Government would ensure the long-term viability of a vast number of businesses providing an essential service up and down the country, while similarly protecting individuals who would otherwise be forced to enter the welfare system. These are frontline staff, who are clearly as vital to the community and the economy as those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, and extremely deserving of this support."


In Scotland we have also written to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance to highlight the precarious position of private dental practices. We requested that such practices are included within all business support measures in Scotland.  We understand that a number of dentists have already contacted their respective MSPs and Scottish Ministers to voice their concerns about financial sustainability.

 

Finally, further evidence of our campaigns influencing political debate can be seen in the parliamentary motion tabled by Ben Lake MP for Ceredigion, Wales. This motion highlights our concerns. It also demonstrates that our message, on the disastrous consequences for the dental industry and patients, is being heard.


Providing first-hand evidence to government 

We are using powerful evidence, which comes directly from our members, to demonstrate the urgent and incontrovertible needs of the dental industry to the government. We have painted a realistic picture of how the dental industry is faring in response to the COVID-19 crisis via a number of surveys gathering private and confidential (anonymous) information.

 

Seventy percent of practices said they can only maintain financial viability for a maximum of three months. This finding has provided the backbone of our message to government and has confirmed the reality of practice sustainability and the financial oblivion many face.  

 

The evidence also highlighted that private practices have been the most exposed - a fact which we continue to highlight.  


Making your voice heard in the press

We have been speaking to the national and local media on a daily basis to convey the vital role that private practice plays in the dental industry. The lack of capacity within the wider NHS to pick up the burden if these practices collapse is clear and must be communicated. 

 

Some of the press coverage we have achieved to date includes:

  • The Sunday Times / The Mail on Sunday warns dental services will be decimated
  • LBC's Nick Ferrari discusses dentists' concerns during lockdown
  • Belfast Telegraph – only 75% of surgeries financially sustainable for up to three months
  • Scotland: 8 in 10 dental practices who applies for government loans are turned down
  • Wales: self-employed need help extended to those earning more than £50,000 p/y.


Creating a united front among the health sector

We've joined forced with 16 other membership bodies representing nearly 300,000 members, ranging from optometrists, osteopaths and of course, dentists, to call on the government to provide financial support for self-employed professionals and small business owners.

 

Together we wrote to Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP and requested that directors of small businesses gain access to either the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

 

We also urged the need to expedite the process of delivering funds under SEISS before it is due to go live in June, and to make the process of accessing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) a smoother one. 


Placing private practice at the heart of the solution

We know one of the key priorities for private dentistry is to be able to provide a more comprehensive range of safe care. Dentists want to be able to look after their patients and to get back to earning an income.

 

We've been making the case to the Health Minister and to government teams that private practices need to be part of the answer as safe and effective care develops, and that many in private dentistry are frustrated and keen to contribute now to the provision of urgent care.

 

To make sure your voices are heard, our General Dental Practice Committee has set up its own group to look at the specific needs of private practice during the pandemic. This new sub-group provides a forum in which to discuss the specific issues facing private practice. They will guide us as we continue to press the government to act and will provide a strong voice for private dentists within the BDA.

 

We are also liaising with other groups making the case on behalf of private practice, such as the new British Association of Private Dentistry.


Looking ahead

There has been a strong recognition from MPs of the vital role dentists play in their communities and the untenable position which many private practices now face. Financial support for dentists in private practice is essential and we will continue to campaign on your behalf. 

 

We will also continue to make the case for private dentistry to be part of the solution as the provision of care develops for all of society. Many challenges remain but we are working tirelessly and inclusively and truly believe that we are stronger together.




Martin Woodrow, Chief Executive BDAMartin Woodrow
Chief Executive, BDA