Practice makes perfect – from a stream to a flood

flood Nigel Jones comments on the Commons debate and expresses the seriousness of dentists leaving the NHS.

‘We all – the BDA, patients, MPs and the Department – know the urgency’.

So said Health Minister Maria Caulfield in the Commons debate on 10 February. This covered the issues surrounding NHS dentistry and the need for a new dental contract in England. 

That the BDA know the urgency is undeniable and the way it has successfully mobilised its members to brief MPs was very evident during the debate.

The need for urgency is clearly not lost on all those MPs that contributed their views in the Commons. Those patients on waiting lists up and down the land are also under no illusion that something is badly wrong and needs sorting fast.

However, I doubt I am alone in being less than reassured by some other things that the Health Minister said such as: ‘We are looking at some quick wins over the next 12 months and some long-term contractual reform to the UDAs. We have started informal negotiations and the formal negotiations will start in April’.

Losing hope

On a weekly basis, my team and I are receiving emails from practice owners with an NHS contract who, it has to be said, are reluctantly giving up on the NHS because of an inability to find and/or keep associates. 

One is already four dentists down and has given up hope of recruiting replacements.  

Another has been given six months by the existing associates to reduce the involvement of the practice with the NHS.

In a similar vein, one NHS practice successfully recruited a new associate, but only on the understanding that the practice will be handing back its £600K contract.

Last year’s trickle of dentists leaving the NHS has become a stream and it is very hard to see how the department can stop it becoming a flood when pay, conditions and all-round quality of life for those in private dentistry are viewed so much more favourably than for those in the NHS.

Time is against NHS England and unless those ‘quick wins’ are very quick and very substantial, the flood will overwhelm the LATs long before they have the time to put defences in place.

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