Toothbrush photo © Julian Swainson (lockdown mode)
Labour MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis has been contacted by several local dentists about how existing Coronavirus support initiatives are failing to help them financially. And in common with the vast majority of public servants, local dentists report general shortages of the protective personal equipment needed to prevent them from getting COVID-19 from patients or transmitting it to those patients or other dental staff.
On Wednesday 26th March dentists received an email from the Care Quality Commission forbidding dentists from carrying out any routine treatments and allowing them only to provide a telephone advice service. That means staff will be furloughed and many practices will have vastly reduced income or no income whatsoever if they are independent of the NHS.
Dental practices have not been included in the same way as retail and leisure to receive any cash grants. In addition, any dental premises slightly exceeding the threshold for business rate compensation will have to continue paying the rates every month even though practices have vastly reduced or no revenue.
Insurance companies have told local dentists that they do not cover closure due to pandemics. The alternative of taking up a government Coronavirus business loan merely pushes financial worries into the future; those loans will have to be repaid later in circumstances when all recipients will inevitably be under pressure to pay many other creditors too.
The dentists are also concerned that the government has not yet advised them of how a practice’s patients will be able to access emergency care if they need it.
Clive Lewis said:
“Like so other health and care workers, local dentists’ overwhelming concern is for their patients. As it stands they don’t even know if their patients are going to be cared for during the closure of many local dental services. Worse still they fear that even if those emergency services are up and running, those dentist’s patients will be put at risk because there won’t any protective personal equipment there either to operate safely.
As one of the dentists put it to a member of my team talking about the lack of support, “we certainly don’t feel that the government has ‘put its arms around’ our profession”. I am following up on all these concerns put to me with government ministers.”