The British Dental Association has warned means-testing of support for the self-employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic will have a potentially catastrophic impact on large parts of the dental workforce, particularly those providing private care.
While support measures are being put in place for NHS contract holders the vast majority of high street dentists operate ‘mixed’ practices combining elements of state and private care.
While practice owners may be able to benefit from some relief via support for businesses, the self-employed associate dentists working under them are likely to be hit hard. Those operating exclusively on private basis are thus far ineligible for any packages of support for lost income, beyond mortgage holidays and self-assessment deferrals for income tax.
The BDA estimates spending on private sector dentistry has exceeded the total UK-wide NHS budget since 2012. It warned an already threadbare NHS service would be incapable of meeting patient demand left by any fall in private capacity.
Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee Dave Cottam said:
“Many self-employed dentists working in largely or exclusively private practice have seen their incomes fall to zero.
“Failure to offer them a safety net will not only hit highly skilled individuals, but will have a devastating impact on the essential services they provide.
“When NHS dentistry is already stretched to breaking point, letting private practices go to the wall would be criminally irresponsible.”