‘Like all good Christmas stories and melodies, it will probably bring a tear to the eye – but for all the wrong reasons’: Kevin Lewis provides the festive soundtrack for the dental profession.
As we approach another Christmas and the sound of festive carol singers drifts from street to street and door to door through the night air, what better than to create our own collection of nine carols and nine readings to kick the festivities off?
Whatever your faith, we can always relate to a bit of a dental get-together and knees-up.
I was surprised to discover that this ‘nine plus nine’ pre-Christmas tradition began in Cornwall (Truro) when the local Anglican Bishop thought that it would be an attractive alternative to what he saw as over-enthusiastic alcohol consumption in Cornish pubs at that time (the 1880s). Don’t you just love an optimist?
But apparently 400 people showed up – which probably thrilled the Bishop more than the local publicans, although I guess it gave them an hour or so to wash a few glasses before everyone piled back in for a nightcap.
The first lesson will be read by the home secretary (AKA one of the former home secretaries), Suella Braverman, who will outline her ambitious plans to solve the UK’s deepening workforce shortage at the same time as reversing the huge increase in net immigration to the UK, recently confirmed as having taken place in 2021-2022.
She will then adjourn to the beaches near Dover for a candlelight vigil during which she will lead the singing of that enduring yuletide favourite, I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In.
The second lesson will be read by an official from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Like all good Christmas stories and melodies, it will probably bring a tear to the eye – but in this instance, for all the wrong reasons.
Way back in July, the government accepted the recommendation from the independent Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) for a 4.5% uplift to dentists’ pay for the April 2022-March 2023 fiscal year. However, this is only one part of the calculation of the overall uplift in annual contract (UDA) values, which also needs to factor in an element relating to operating expenses.
The costs side of this annual equation is decided by DHSC following input from and (supposedly) consultation with the BDA. But the government appears to have developed a highly selective deafness regarding the impact of inflation and the hugely increased energy and other supply chain-related costs faced by dental surgeries and laboratories.
Yet again, the government has reverted to ‘go slow’ mode, resulting in a continuing lack of clarity and radio silence. So the twin choice of Silent Night and Do They Know it’s Christmas? seems entirely fitting.
The third lesson looks like being quite a short one, consisting of NHS England’s detailed plans for NHS dental contract reforms and why they will be regarded as an offer that neither of the NHS practitioners remaining by that stage will feel able to refuse.
The music accompanying this will take a bit longer, but the lyrics should be vaguely familiar.
We’re walking in the air,
Floating in the moonlit sky,
The DHSC team is sleeping as we fly
We’re holding very tight,
High up in the midnight blue,
To tell the honest truth they
haven’t got a clue
Children gaze open mouth,
Taken by surprise,
Nobody down below believes their eyes (etc)(etc)
The fourth reading will feature a guest speaker from Dental Trauma UK, followed by a couple of verses of All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. It will be sponsored by the Association of Dental Implantology.
The fifth lesson will feature a speaker from The British Association for Cosmetic Dentistry, followed by a moving seasonal rendition of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.
Urgent need for dental treatment
The sixth offering in the collection consists of a pair of melodies, In the Bleak Mid-winter and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Trismus (Everywhere You Go).
It will feature a speaker from Dentaid, whose mobile dental units and clinical teams have been valiantly providing dental care to the homeless, vulnerable and others around the UK who are in urgent need of dental treatment but were unable to access it.
This need certainly does not go away at Christmas. Although some commentators have reacted to the recent TV coverage of Dentaid’s work by questioning how and why a relatively wealthy country like the UK needs to rely on food banks to feed many of its population, and charity-funded teams moving around the country in caravans to plug the gaps in the NHS as well as in patients’ mouths.
On a more serious note, it was back in February of this year that FMC founder and chairman, Ken Finlayson, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in honour and memory of his late wife Kimberley who tragically died after contracting Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic.
Ken was joined on the climb by Tim Molony, FMC’s digital director, and together they raised more than £50k for Dentaid. Congrats to them, to Dentaid and to all the dentists and teams who support them and other charities at home and abroad. And before you ask, the GDC doesn’t qualify as a charity, and neither do dental practices who still work in the NHS. Working without any hope of making a profit any time soon isn’t enough, I am sorry to report.
The seventh lesson will be read by a speaker from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and after allowing a bit of fallow time to allow the dust and aerosol to settle, the choir will sing that old favourite Deck the Drills with Boughs of Clingfilm (fa la la la la, it’s Christmas time).
The eighth reading will be shared by two speakers. One from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS-BSA), promoting the launch of its latest stocking-filler publication 100 Imaginative Ways to Disallow Fee Claims. And the GDC will then promote its own Christmas blockbuster 101 Imaginative Ways to Allege Dishonesty.
They will join forces to belt out Said the Night Wind to the Little Lamb: Do You See What I See? Don’t worry if you don’t know the words – these organisations make them up as they go along anyway.
The ninth and final contribution to our festive concert could delay the departure of the congregation by quite some time – to the extent that some may be humming Wish I Could be Home for Christmas by the end of it. It will list the comings-and-goings at the Cabinet Table, and ministerial arrivals and departures below Cabinet level during 2022.
It was suggested that the organist could play Ding Dong Merrily on High in the background, but after the Partygate scandal, You Will Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties seems more apposite?
The closing rendition
But to end the proceedings on a high note, the congregation will then join the choir with a stirring closing rendition of:
Good King Wenceslas last looked out,
On the feast of Stephen,
Mr Barclay got the shout,
When Liz et al were leaving,
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the cost was cruel,
When a tall man came in sight,
Funding winter fuel.
Hither, Jeremy, stand by me,
If thou knowst it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
He once lived a short league hence,
Right next door to Boris.
Now he’s moved to Number 10,
Banning Nadine Dorries.
All the best for Christmas and for your happiness, contentment and success in 2023.
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