Newly-elected BDA board member for London, Shareena Ilyas, explains why she believes BDA membership is crucial for all dentists both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
I am a campaigner through and through. My dad used to tell everyone how I was an activist from a very young age. I took part on my school council and was always organising school clubs to try and get my peers involved. That instinct continued when I qualified as a dentist. I joined the BDA Benevolent Fund and became an officer for my local section in west London. I spent many hours volunteering to find new ways for other dentists to get involved – from providing learning and CPD training to taking part in political issues.
I also trained as a mentor for dentists in difficulty and am still part of a group of volunteers providing support via COVID-19 coaches at Dental Mentors UK. As I said, I am a campaigner through and through.
I know not everyone always understands this. Not everyone feels the need to be part of a trade union like the BDA. However, I passionately believe we need an organisation that speaks for every dentist out there, now more than ever.
Supporting members through the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in our industry almost grinding to a halt. Since being elected to the board many dentists have been contacting me. While many are of course deeply concerned about their practices, they are also seeking advice on what they can do to help. They want to know how to ensure their patients receive urgent treatment when they need it.
My answer is that they should keep supporting what we at the BDA are already doing.
One-to-one consultations and continual advice
The BDA has seen an enormous increase of members contacting us for support and advice since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Suddenly our advisors were taking five times as many calls per day than they were previously. Our staff have been working long into the nights to help members make sense of the practical and legal complexities they are all of a sudden facing: from furloughing and the retaining of staff to clarifying financial packages, redeployment and urgent care. It is a minefield and our experts are helping in every way they can. They offer one-to-one consultations, frequently updated advice on the website (see the incredibly useful FAQs and Financial impact pages) and now webinars - the most recent of which was joined by over 800 members.
Our extended and dedicated team have kept the coronavirus content rolling with ongoing updates on news, policies and campaigns. The goal is to keep you informed and ensure no one is in the dark during this unprecedented crisis. They are lobbying the government to get answers and action and to raise the issues that you are facing in the local and national media.
Improving financial support packages for dentists
Our work has already ensured that NHS and mixed practices will continue to receive funding. Associates who deliver NHS treatments will also receive financial support during this time – and have access to our new pay dispute resolution service should issues arise.
We are very aware that the government has overlooked private practices and we have been relentlessly outspoken on this issue. Our campaign urging the government for a fair and equitable solution has already been supported by nearly 200 MPs.
Working together to tell your story
We regularly reach out to members and ask you to tell us about your experiences. This provides the backbone of our campaigns and our message to government and ensures that it is your voice that tells the story that those in power need to hear. That is why the BDA is here.
I believe the BDA is the only organisation that can stand up for us collectively. The more of us that take part, the stronger our voice will be. You don’t have to get on your soapbox and campaign until your socks drop off like me, but you can be a part of the movement. All you need to do is
A note on emotional support
I know that the stress and anxiety caused by this ongoing uncertainty is reaching a crisis point. We are all feeling isolated - not just physically but emotionally too.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, please do get in touch with someone. Members, the BDA provides access to
Health Assured. Your can also try the Practitioner Advice and Support Scheme (PASS) via your Local Dental Committee.
Dentists can also access the
NHS Practitioner Support Programme,
Dentists' Health Support Trust, and
ConfiDental. If you urgently need support,
Samaritans are always there and willing to listen. Please don’t suffer alone.