Lack of funding leaves 51% of Scottish dental practices vulnerable after lockdown

COVID-19 closed signMore than half (57%) of practices say they would consider remaining closed after COVID-19 if a more viable SDR funding model was not agreed.

That’s according to a poll carried out by the Scottish Dental Practice Owners (SDPO) Facebook group. It asked 327 practice owners questions about the government and NHS Scotland’s handling of dentistry during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Results also show that 51% don’t believe they would be financially viable with the current funding model going into the next ‘return to work’ phase.

‘Whilst other healthcare sectors have been given 100% of their funding plus subsidies to set up for COVID safety measures, NHS dentistry has seen its funding cut to 80% with no subsidies,’ a spokesperson for the SDPO group told Dentistry Online.

‘Dental practices were closed without consultation. They will only reopen for face to face triaging. At a maximum of 10 patients per day (as per the SG restrictions, PPE is being supplied for these 10 patients).

‘This means patients will still be in the situation they are in now. Many left in pain or will lose teeth that we could otherwise save. Many will continue to have repeated antibiotics. It will almost be impossible to catch up with the backlog of patients from the past 11 weeks.

‘UDCs promised weeks ago still have not opened. It is a struggle to get patients seen in many health boards for aerosol generating procedures (AGPS).’

Patient care during COVID-19

The poll also shows that 85% of Scottish practice owners feel NHS Scotland is compromising patient care during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Respondents believe not allowing dentists to see patients for dental emergencies (non-AGPs) during COVID-19 is compromising care. And more than half (57%) say they are unsatisfied with the CDO’s handling of dentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Most dental practices cannot survive on this current funding model on opening,’ the SDPO spokesperson continued.

‘All as payment holidays end, staff are unfurloughed and the costs of consumables increases.

‘If we were given the same 100% funding as other healthcare sectors such as optometrists, pharmacists and GPs, we would have a greater chance of survival. As is stands, approximately 50 % of dental practices fear they will close. This would leave half of the population without a dentist resulting in a dental crisis.

‘With extra PPE supplied to individual dental practices there would be no need for UDCs at all. It is dentists from these NHS practices helping to man the UDCs.’

Last month Tom Ferris, CDO for Scotland, unveiled Scotland’s steps to get the profession back to work. The three-phase plan focuses on the remobilisation of NHS dental services in Scotland.

‘We need to take into consideration the added risk of aerosol generating procedures on COVID-19 transmission,’ Mr Ferris writes. ‘The availability of appropriate PPE is also a major consideration in how we shape the recovery and mobilise NHS dental services.’

NHS funding

The poll also asked questions about the current funding model for NHS dentistry in Scotland.

All of the respondents (100%) don’t believe the current SDR allows practices to offer the latest technology, equipment and materials to patients. And more than half (52%) say their commitment to NHS dentistry is dependant on an updated SDR package.

Worryingly, 83% of practice owners say the current contract is having a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of NHS dentists.

Tom Ferris has been approached for comment.

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