Musings on furlough

As a phased returned to practice is outlined by the Scottish Government, don’t forget the positives you reflected on during lockdown

15 June, 2020 / management
 Susie Anderson Sharkey  

As I am sitting writing this article, it’s a bit overcast and I’m looking out of my window over some rather choppy waters. It kind of sums up the past few weeks doesn’t it, and perhaps the next few weeks and even months? Without a vaccine, life is not going to return to normal; that is, the way we knew it before lockdown. Many months will have to pass, and probably the turn of a year before we see a semblance of normality when an effective vaccine is produced and administered.

While the Chancellor announced that the job retention scheme will be extended until October, and although we are thankful for the announcement, I’m sure every single owner of a dental practice will be praying that we will be back at work long before then. Yes, we probably will be back at work, but what shape or form that work involves remains to be seen at this exact moment in time. It may well be a mere echo of the way practices have been run up until now.

I for one have been very grateful for the furlough scheme. Obviously, being out of work with no income would have been a very trying time for literally millions of hard-working UK citizens. As it is, with 80% of our wages being paid by the Government, most people will be able to find that this will tide them over as some other outgoings obviously drop. I haven’t put petrol in my car for almost two months and I no longer go out for a coffee on a day off, so as you too have realised, all these add up to what can amount to pretty substantial savings (depending on how much you used your car and how many coffee shops you visited pre lockdown!). So, the furlough scheme has given us all a real peace of mind.

i’ve had time to reflect, to wonder what I could have done differently

Susie Anderson Sharkey

The scheme has also given me time, and for this I am so truly thankful. I have spent the last 40 years (yes 40 years!) either studying, working or raising a family, and for years it was all three at the same time. Believe me, maternity leave is no furlough (I nearly hit someone recently when they said I’d have had down time when I had maternity leave). Needless to say, they’re single. But, seriously, for the first time in 40 years I have time to sit, time to think, time to catch up with all the jobs I’ve been promising to do for years. I’ve had time to look back at my life (I found my 1978 diary!), time to reflect, time to wonder what I would/could have done differently in life. And yes, I can definitely say, if I had the time to live over again, I would do quite a few things differently, or not at all. And there are other things, hitherto undone that I would do if I had the time to live over again. But we don’t, we just have the ‘right here and now’ and we do what we can in the light of the knowledge we have at any given point.

Yes, I have watched a few of the lockdown webinars (did you see Clive’s karaoke evening??) and want to thank all those who put so much time and effort – and continue to do so – into giving us relevant and relatable CPD, as well as not relatable but highly informative (beam me up Scotty), and there can be no excuses for anyone not meeting their CPD requirement. It is an opportunity for each of us to develop our knowledge base and this will no doubt be put to good use when we all eventually hit the ground, albeit walking.

This furlough has also given me time to pursue one of my long-held passions, namely interior design. It’s a field I have been interested in for many years and at this precise moment in time I am undertaking a couple of courses in interior design and I am loving learning new techniques and terminology (there’s not a treatment plan or molar endo in sight!). However, there are concept boards, client briefs, mood boards, presentations galore, new web apps to discover and I can explore my love of colour and concept to my heart’s content… well, until the end of furlough
at any rate.

None of us know exactly what lies ahead. By the time this article goes to print and drops on your (virtual) doorstep, we may all be back at work. I don’t know, you don’t know, none of us know. We can have best guesses, we can have a wish list, we can have theories and suppositions but at this precise moment in time we simply don’t know. Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer, has published a plan for a phased return to work. However, we haven’t as yet been given all the tools and all the information we need to be able to open up our practices safely and move forward to deliver the outstanding service and commitment that is evident in so many clinicians and their teams. So, let’s take a moment to pause, time to reflect, time to decide the future we want to see happen because let’s be in no doubt about it; this is an opportunity that has been given to us right now that has certainly never been made available to me in my lifetime and may never come to us again. Let’s use the time wisely, so that when we look back on lockdown in the years to come, we won’t be full of regrets of what might have been during this very unusual period in our lives but will be thankful that we used the time that was given us to our advantage and to the advantage of those around us. 

If you wish to contact Susie about this article or other practice management issues she can be reached at

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