A dental family; stronger together
The BDA’s President reflects on the outbreak and how the organisation is working harder than ever to support dentists
Every dentist has had a different experience of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some have seen their incomes evaporate almost overnight. Others have lost loved ones or have taken on new roles to support the nationwide response.
What’s universal, is that we’ve all been affected. There’s never been a more challenging time to be a dentist in the UK. But I believe, we’ll emerge from this stronger, if we stick together.
Flattening the curve
Like many other dentists across the UK, I volunteered to work on the response at the beginning of this crisis. Starting in March, I worked in the doctors’ hub in Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Northern Ireland. My role was linking with the medical teams and working to support staff welfare.
We will come through this stronger, if we reach out for support when we need it and continue to work together
Preparing for the surge was stressful for everyone. Patients were streaming in and it was clear the situation would get worse before it got better. Many doctors were working out of their normal scope of practice. Some were choosing to live close to the hospital and to isolate themselves from their families. I tried to support in whatever way I could and I was inspired by the dedication shown by not just the doctors and nurses, but by all the staff. Everyone went above and beyond.
In Scotland, the Public Dental Service moved quickly to set up Urgent Dental Centres(1) in their local areas once all routine dental treatment ceased. All UDCs began operating by the end of March, and an increasing number of redeployed GDPs are working in the centres. The profession has really pulled together to treat the most urgent cases, and practices are now preparing for a phased reopening over the coming weeks and months.
When social distancing measures lowered infection rates, the number of new cases began to drop. Everyone had come together to flatten the curve. This was a huge relief. Of course the death toll continues to increase, each one a loved and cherished person, but this tragedy could have been so much worse. The nightmare scenario of our health service buckling under a huge spike in infections has been avoided.
Supporting dentists when they need it most
They say that in a crisis you find out who your true friends are, and I’ve truly been bowled over by the efforts of my BDA colleagues.
Our policy teams gathered evidence from hundreds of members across Scotland to make the case for the issues that matter to you directly to ministers and the media. Tireless work by the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee ensured that NHS and mixed practices in Scotland will continue to receive funding and we continue to seek clarification on the support package. Associates who deliver NHS treatments will also receive financial support during this time, and we’ve provided a new pay dispute resolution service should issues arise.
The BDA has been relentlessly outspoken on the lack of support given to private practices. Some of our colleagues are approaching a financial cliff edge. Our campaign urging the government for a fair and equitable solution has received cross-party support from over 100 MPs, and BDA Scotland has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance urging financial support for private dentists. Ministers in Holyrood and Westminster must throw a lifeline to private practice.
Colleagues in our advice teams have also been supporting five times the usual number of members. Staff have been working long into the nights to help members make sense of the practical and legal complexities we are facing; from furloughing and the retaining of staff to clarifying financial packages, redeployment and urgent care.
The BDA will continue to campaign on behalf of all dentists and dentistry. I’ve never been prouder to be a member and I’ve agreed to extend my term as President to support in whatever way I can. We’re working hard to make sure your voices are heard, and our driving focus remains: you and your patients’ health and the financial viability of your practice.
In the meantime, I urge you to reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed. BDA members can access 24/7 counselling(2) through our Health Assured service. All health boards in Scotland have dedicated professional well-being support services during this COVID-19 crisis. Alternatively you can call ConfiDental(3) for support.
There has never been a more stressful time to be a dentist in the UK. But we will come through this stronger if we reach out for support when we need
it and continue to work together. We are a dental family. We are stronger together.