Funding crisis: more than 50 per cent of practices ‘may not reopen’, according to poll

09 June, 2020 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

More than half of Scottish practices questioned in a poll said they may remain closed, despite the Government’s remobilisation plan for dentistry, unless a more viable funding model is agreed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the poll carried out by the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Facebook group, 327 practice owners answered questions about the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland’s handling of dentistry during the pandemic.

The poll revealed that that 51 per cent do not believe that their practices would be financially viable in the next ‘return to work’ phase under the current funding model.

“Other healthcare sectors have been given 100 per cent of their funding, plus subsidies to for COVID safety measures,” a spokesperson for the SDPO group said. “NHS dentistry has seen its funding cut to 80 per cent with no subsidies.”

The poll also showed that 85 per cent of practice owners feel NHS Scotland was compromising patient care during the COVID-19 lockdown by not allowing dentists to see patients for emergency care. More than half (57 per cent) said they were unsatisfied with the Chief Dental Officer’s handling of dentistry during the pandemic.

In the poll, 100 per cent of respondents said they did not believe the current SDR allows practices to offer the latest technology, equipment, and materials to patients. More than half (52 per cent) said their commitment to NHS dentistry was dependant on an updated Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR).

A significant majority (83 per cent) of practice owners aid the current contract is having a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of NHS dentists.

Last month Tom Ferris, Scotland’s CDO, published a three-phase plan for the ‘remobilisation’ of NHS dental services in Scotland and which formed part of the Scottish Government’s ‘route map’ out of the pandemic. A ‘practice recovery toolkit’ was also published last month. Phase one of the remobilisation plan got underway on 28 May.

In a letter published yesterday, the CDO said: “We are intending to reintroduce dental services on a phased basis over the course of this month. This means dental practices will be able to see NHS patients for face-to-face consultation who are in need of urgent care, using non-aerosol generating procedures.

“The precise date will be confirmed following the next three-weekly review of lockdown regulations on 18 June. I am aware that not all dental practices will be able to open at the same time as some practices may take longer to prepare. The start date is not to be considered a target – practices must be certain they can safely open before they do.”

He added: “The intention is to publish a revised Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR) shortly. This will include the list of treatments that dental contractors providing NHS dental services can provide under phase two of the remobilisation plan.

“The purpose of this interim SDR is to record activity against the appropriate items of treatment. The NHS financial support measures that were provided to NHS dental contractors and NHS committed practices, as described in Memorandum to NHS: PCA(D)(2020)7, will remain in place during phase two and that these measures are not dependent on the date of opening.”

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