Olivia O'Neil-Dunne makes the case for dentistry to her MP and explains how, by ignoring private practice, the Government is endangering dentistry and the nation's oral health.
The pandemic has halted all routine dental care. This is bad news for patients, as prevention is the key to good oral health, and bad news for dentists in private practice like me, who are suddenly without an income and in need for financial support. But it's also a disaster for dentistry as a whole, which relies on a mix of public and private practice. If the Government doesn't act, many dentists in private practice will go bankrupt and this will directly affect the nation's oral health.
That's why, I recently wrote to my MP, Sir Paul Beresford, the only MP who is a former dentist, to make a plea for Government to take our plight seriously.
Why are self-employed dentists' ineligible for financial support?
The vast majority of dentists working in the UK are not practice owners and are self-employed. The Chancellor has offered help to businesses, but this does not apply to self-employed dentists, as many have earned over the threshold of £50,000 a year.
Almost half of self-employed dentists earn £50,000 - £75,000. Employed people earning up to £150,000 a year are eligible to receive £2,500 a month. But most dentists do not qualify for universal credit given the current criteria. So, we are been denied any form of financial help.
We are not the 'super-rich' and many practices are on the brink of collapse.
We are not the 'super-rich' and many practices are on the brink of collapse. Many members of the dental team are facing losing everything, and for me, this is 100% of my income. If all self-employed dentists in the country are allowed to go bankrupt during the outbreak, this will directly affect the provision of dentistry and the nation's oral health in the years to come.
The Government needs to step in to save dentistry
Private practices have been keeping the burden of patient care away from the already flooded NHS for years now. The new NHS Long Term Plan from the Conservative Government did not mention additional financial support for NHS dentistry, so it seems that they plan for this situation to continue.
When this crisis is over, if we are to return to 'normal', then we must save dentistry from disaster now - I call on the Chancellor to act to help keep all self-employed dentists heads above water, so we can weather this storm and return to providing exemplary dental care for our patients.
This is a very tough period for the entire country and sacrifices need to be made by everyone, but we must urge the Chancellor that neglecting to support dentists in private practice during this time may have knock-on effects on the NHS and the provision of oral health care for years to come.