Government opens talks with practice owners

Invitation comes amid warning of ‘exodus’ from NHS

09 April, 2021 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

An organisation representing practice owners has received an invitation from Scotland’s health minister to open talks with government officials.

The Scottish Dental Practice Owners (SDPO) group was formed in the early days of the pandemic last year, amid concerns from some in the profession that their interests were not being represented. At the time, Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer, said the only body the Scottish Government recognised as representing the profession was the British Dental Association.

A spokesperson for the SDPO told Scottish Dental: “It seems incredible that there has never before been a group to represent practice owners. Pharmacy owners are directly represented to government, so are opticians, but somehow dental practice owners have been ignored. This has to change. Dental practice owners make huge investments to provide facilities for NHS dental care. The service would cease to function without the support and cooperation of practice owners, but our contribution to Scotland’s health and economy has been under-valued.”

The group launched formal membership at the beginning of last month and appealed to practice owners across Scotland to join. “The greater the formal membership of the group, the greater our influence will be,” said the spokesperson. “The SDPO’s committee firmly believes that the voice of Scotland’s practice owners should be heard, and that acting collectively, practice owners are a powerful stakeholder.

“SDPO group seeks to unite practice owners for the improvement of Scottish dentistry. The Scottish public and the dental workforce stand to benefit if dental practices are valued and well-resourced in fulfilling our important public health role. This is a critical time for the dental sector, with practices facing multiple challenges. NHS practice owners are operating on reduced funding, many have unfairly lost support payments as a result of associate movements, and the future of the service is extremely uncertain.”

Commenting on the invitation to talks from Mairi Gougeon, the Minister for Public Health and Sport, the spokesperson said: “We welcome this development and hope it marks the beginning of an improved relationship between practice owners and the Scottish Government.”

The group plans to regularly poll members on key issues and to present the collective opinion of the group to the media and to politicians. In a recent poll on its website, only 10 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to return to the pre-pandemic “low fee/ high output model of care delivery”.

More than 85 per cent of respondents believed that pre-pandemic working conditions were bad for both their physical and mental health, with similarly high numbers expressing concern that NHS renumeration does not allow staff to be adequately rewarded for their skill and commitment. 

Its next poll, running on its website from the beginning of April, is on the loss of support payments as a result of
associates leaving.

Be careful what you wish for’, officials warned

Tags: SDPO

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