Dr Phil Grigor looks at how BDA Scotland is working on your behalf as the phased return to dentistry continues.
While many dentists in Scotland have been returning to work since 22 June, for others the prospect of reopening their practice is simply unfeasible. Higher costs and lower patient numbers mean dentists have to weigh up the risks and make their own decisions. We want better than that for dentists. We want to offer reassurance and stability and to keep Scottish dentistry viable.
At BDA Scotland we are tirelessly working to help members transition back into patient care.
Here are three things we are fighting for right now:
1. Improved financial support for dental practices
We are continuing to press the issues and concerns dentists have about reopening their practices.
Last week, the Scottish Government announced 13 July as the indicative date for dental practices to move to Phase 3. This will involve dentists seeing registered patients for routine care but will still not involve aerosol-generating procedures. We are urging the CDO and Scottish Government to provide a suitable interim Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR) for Phase 3. We believe it must include triage activity, as this will still be a major commitment for many practices, so it is essential that it’s recorded accurately. We also want the new SDR to include lab bills for repairs to dentures and other appliances, as we think there will be a substantial backlog from the lockdown and dentists should not have to meet this financial burden.
"We are fighting hard on your behalf to secure additional funding for practices."
We are fighting hard on your behalf to secure additional funding for practices and we will update members when we can. The Scottish Government recently reversed its decision to suspend Continuing Professional Development payments to dentists following objections by SDPC. This is just one example of the influence SDPC is having behind the scenes.
We are also keenly aware of the financial pressures facing mixed NHS-private practices, especially those with a large percentage of private income. We have repeatedly written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance
seeking additional financial support for mixed practices, especially those with a high percentage of private income. Mixed practices make up the vast majority of practices in Scotland, and it is vital that they remain viable to meet the huge oral health backlog since practices closed in March due to the pandemic crisis.
Looking to the future, there is widespread acknowledgement that dental practices will not be returning to previous ways of working before the pandemic struck. A new funding model will be required, and SDPC will aim to contribute to those discussions to ensure that dentists’ views and concerns help to shape the future of dentistry in Scotland.
2. Funding reassurance for the Public Dental Service
The Public Dental Service (PDS) in Scotland did a fantastic job in setting up the Urgent Dental Centres (UDCs) so quickly when dental practices closed in March. The Chair of our Scottish Public Dental Service Committee, Graham Smith,
recently paid tribute to his PDS colleagues and welcomed the involvement of redeployed GDPs in the centres. In May, almost 10,000 patients were seen in centres across the country. This would simply not have been possible without the efforts of the PDS and wider dental profession.
While the PDS has demonstrated its value during the current crisis, we remain concerned about the long-term future of the service. In recent years, the PDS budget and workforce have reduced by around 15%, and there is a possibility of further cuts. That is why we have
written to the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing to seek assurance that the 2020-21 PDS budget will at least match the current year.
Any reduction in funding may mean that the PDS will not have sufficient capacity to deal with further COVID-19 outbreaks, or to deal with the substantial backlog of vulnerable patients requiring dental care. The PDS is more vital than ever as a ‘safety net’ for Scottish dentistry – it must be supported to do its job.
3. Ongoing support for dentists
We are continuing to support dentists during the pandemic crisis.
"Our toolkit is designed to complement the SDCEP guidance."
return to practice toolkit is a thorough and useful guide for dentists in Scotland reopening their practices. The toolkit is designed to complement the SDCEP guidance, and contains additional practical advice on various issues, including indemnity, employment relations, and staff terms and conditions.
Members continually seek our advice on financial support and other issues which we pursue with the Scottish Government or NHS Practitioner Services Division (PSD) and respond as quickly as we can. PSD also continues to receive many queries from dentists, and it regularly updates its
COVID-19 FAQs as a useful reference guide to the NHS financial support package.
We are also:
- working with MSPs to ask Parliamentary Questions on our behalf
- seeking clarification from NHS Education for Scotland on what opportunities may be available for Vocational Dental Practitioners following the early cessation of their training.
The BDA Scotland team and our committee members continue to work hard on your behalf. We will do everything we can to represent and support you at this difficult time, and to keep you up to date with the latest developments and our activities.
Dr Phil Grigor
BDA Scotland National Director