One month into lockdown; an update for the Scottish dental sector

23 April, 2020 / featured
 Ian Main  

As we mark the one-month anniversary of the UK lock-down I am pleased to share my 20th Scottish dental sector Covid-19 update with you.

The UK death rate has now reached 17,366 and the original UK Government target of containment below the 20,000 mark now looks an impossibility. Equivalent to the full population of St Andrews this is a sobering statistic and a reminder of the seriousness of the challenge faced right now.

At this time of reflection, I felt it might be worth summarising matters and with this in mind I have provided my 4th major update to our summary guide of support available to the Scottish Dental Sector and am happy to share this document below:

  • Summary of Support Available Vs4.0.pdf
  • Summary of Support Available Vs4.0.pdf
    (Click the links to download the support guide PDFs)

I encourage you to continue to cross-reference your COVID-19 mitigation plans with this document and ensure you take advantage of all support options available to you. Please do let me know if you need any assistance with any of the component elements.

General update

We continue to be impressed by the quantity and quality of the online CPD on offer at present and despite our unprecedented workload at this time supporting the Scottish Dental Sector I have managed to attend a number of the sessions personally. I would like to offer my ongoing congratulations to those involved and in particular the Lock-down programme organised by Clive Schmulian. This has delivered a great blend of fun and learning to many and at last count raised £14,865 for The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice. Well done all.

This Friday and Saturday would of course have been the Scottish Dental Show. This event has become the flagship event in Scotland, and it is a great shame that it cannot go ahead, but clearly that is not possible. I sincerely hope the planned rescheduling in the Autumn can go ahead and that it can be used as an opportunity to look back at these challenging times with it all behind us.

Over the last month it is clear, as I have mentioned a number of times, that this has been a time of togetherness for the profession in Scotland and the collegiate spirit and support witnessed is encouraging. The profession has been represented to differing degrees over this period by various bodies and parties. There is a current drive, figure headed by Tariq Bashir, David McColl and David Offord to create a single online private network of Scottish Dental Professionals. Entitled ‘Saving Scottish Dental Practices’ they invite you to join their network at the following link to consider the possible collective voice which can be created at this time. Join the Network

We wish them every success with the campaign and look forward to seeing the project impact develop.

Funding update

Business Support Grant – Phase 1 & 2

We can confirm that the £10,000 grant available to practices with a rateable value less than £18,000 is being successfully received across the country. There remains a variable timetable of delivery as a result of the local council oversight and geographical differences, but we are pleased to see this welcome funding being received successfully and in time to support the end of month wages commitment for a number of practices. Although we have heard of a small number of receipts in the Edinburgh Council territory it is fair to say that their team appear to be the most challenged in the country at this time and many have found they still await any communication for early submissions. It is hoped that this bottleneck experience will be relieved shortly to ease cash concerns at this time of need.

I have previously highlighted that those with property above the £18,000 ceiling may potentially qualify for the higher support package of £25,000 by virtue of the acceptable definition of ‘clinic’ within the retail, hospitality and leisure category and anyone who has not applied in that regard should do so without delay.

The Scottish Government launched Phase 2 of this support package last week and have ear marked a further £120M for businesses who trade from multiple premises. The full details of the scheme are yet to be released but it seems likely it will follow the same rateable value criteria and will be paid at 75% of the first property level for every additional eligible property. This could be very useful for multi-site practices and groups. This will again be administered by the local authorities and will be opened for applications from the 5th May onwards. Well worth keeping an eye on your local authority websites if eligible.

NHS support package

The eagerly anticipated e-schedules arrived in the portals this past weekend and as expected have resulted in a further wave of widespread confusion and questions.

A dedicated email address at PSD has been created to answer any queries about these schedules at nss.psd-dental-payments-covid19@nhs.net and you are encouraged to contact this mailbox at this time.

I am aware that many practices have long standing calculation methods in place for the production of Associate schedules and as a result of the delivery of this support package these methods are not likely to remain valid.

To clarify how the support is currently being delivered I would direct you towards line 13 of the schedules entitled ‘Non-Superannuable Allowances’. This line will include any support delivery where the items of service fall short of the 12-month average. For any practitioners operating at full capacity in March there may be the situation when the genuinely completed treatment courses in the standard items of service lines exceeds their 12-month average level and then line 13 may show as nil. As the genuine treatment courses fall away you would expect their line 13 to increase next month.

As line 13 is potentially used for other elements of income from the SDR I recommend that you extract the ‘Allowances & superannuation’ report for each list number from your portal and isolate the component entitled ‘Covid 19 FSM’ which relates to this service package. For those practices normally using line 40 for their income share splits with Associates you will need to add the line 13 support to line 40 to arrive at your ‘normal’ income levels.

I am aware that there is a drive from the BDA to have the support package classified as superannuable income, and this may result in a change to the schedules at a later stage which you would be advised to keep a close watching brief on.

Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

Despite most of the nation having never heard of furlough one month ago we now find the ‘F Word’ a regular and frequent part of daily life at present and it has been covered in some depth by me previously. Thank you for the feedback provided on the furlough template spreadsheet provided in my last update (and still available in my archived documents below) which many found to be helpful in formulating their mixed practice furlough strategy.

We lobbied the government, PSD and the CDO last week to allow all practices to furlough at 100% and discuss any perceived duplication of support once the crisis is over to determine any clawbacks. As expected, our suggestion was rebuffed. Without any further guidance from the CDO we must attempt to optimise the practice furlough usage in proportion to the private split involved. We have advised, and remain at this stage confident, that as long as you approach matters systematically and document all decisions, you cannot be deemed in contravention of current guidance. My suggested template provides you with a possible optimal approach to meet the spirit of the NHS support package. You are of course entitled to interpret the guidance in your own way and adopt in a bespoke manner for your practice.

We do face the possibility of further changes, but commercial decisions cannot be delayed, and you should follow a route which you are content is defendable against any latent challenge arising from HMRC or NHS. For clarity our client fee protection insurance will cover our support against any HMRC challenge, and we will be happy to defend your position without cost to you and need to concede in any way.

For your interest I share the CDO response to our enquiry. My colleague James Wilson, an ex-Principal in Private Practice for over 25 years before converting to the accountancy world, tabled our queries with a foot in each of the clinical and financial camps.

You will note from the response that there is no real change to the initial suggestions from the CDO. Also included in the letter is the response to the query we tabled on behalf of a Dental Body Corporate Group to ask whether the support package was optional in relation the item of service element. The reply obtained confirmed that, in theory, it would be. Where this were advantageous it may be worthy of further consideration but is unlikely to favour many.

The HMRC furlough portal was opened this week (Monday the 20th at 8am) and we have processed a large number of claims on behalf of our clients free of charge already. My thanks to Suzie and her payroll team for their continuing hard work and efforts.

Despite my fears that the portal delivery by HMRC may be problematic this proved to be generally unfounded and only minor issues and initial crashes were experienced. More than 140,000 claims in the first day involving more than 1M employees were successfully submitted. If the payment delivery can match the promise to pay within 6 working days this will be a laudable achievement and will provide much needed funding support. Please be aware that you can file applications up to 14 days in advance of pay dates to allow advance funding of wages.

I was saddened to hear of some other accounting & payroll service providers in the central belt looking to profiteer from this grant application process and charge up to £1,200 plus VAT for the submission of each funding request. Whilst we understand that our full team have never worked harder than right now, we feel passionately that this is a time for added support and humanity rather than seeking additional income from vulnerable and challenged dental practices. With that in mind we extend our ongoing invite to lean on us at this time. We have provided free applications for all our payroll clients, and to a number of our non-payroll clients at this time. We are happy to help anyone working with us at this time in any way we can at no extra charge. Any non-client who needs advice on how to access the funding is invited to contact us and we will be glad to point you in the right direction at no charge.

Please feel free to book a free consultation meeting at any time if you would like some advice or to discuss your own circumstances in detail. You can book an online meeting with me at a time to suit you. In these times of social distancing, the face to face option online is a welcome connection!

And finally!

Despite the incredibly serious nature of this time I am really pleased to see a number of practices and professionals involving their teams and patients in some fun online. Be it examples like the Ready Steady Cook challenge over at Tiwari Watson Dental Care or the team update from Integrated Dentalcare there are some lovely examples of keeping the team engaged and in touch right now. I love to see these things happening and I am sure that this will be helpful to all involved. I challenge everyone out there to get involved and have some fun if they can! We are happy to offer a prize to the best example of team togetherness to emerge over the lock-down period and look forward to seeing what you can come up with!…

As our team, including myself, are all working remotely just now, and we are engaging in many web meetings to stay connected we are all breaking the rules of ‘never working with children or animals’! It is really nice to see our team and our clients with their family and pets on these meetings. I am particularly impressed at some of the DIY haircuts on display right now and am considering adding my own working cocker spaniel to the team permanently once this is all over!

Once again love and best wishes to you at this time from myself and the full Dental Accountants Scotland team. I hope you manage to stay safe and well.

As a recurring reminder – our full team are now working remotely but ready and willing to continue to do all we can to support you in any way possible. Please accept my ongoing apology for any delayed reply to your emails while we work harder than ever to support you during this crisis. The level of correspondence required has severely tested my words per minute typing skills! For any urgent queries you may have please continue to call my mobile 07375 700468 (day or night) or book a zoom online consultation here and I will be glad to support you in anyway. Our no fee advice is available to you at this time and we will do all we can as part of your team.

All the very best, stay safe and well.

Footnote

Footnote – Archive of previously shared files in the last 19 updates for reference:

Categories: Magazine

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