3 Apr 2020  •  Blog, Covid-19, Practice Management  •  7min read By  • Simon Thackeray

Simon Thackeray reflects on the last couple of days

As much as things these days can have a degree of normality, today feels like it is going to be normal. The staff got paid yesterday, and today the associates need their monthly calculations doing for their payments. My PM, Vicki, has already produced the reports and spreadsheets, and it’s a simple exercise to fill everything in. I also set up the payments to them, and to the labs for this month. A strangely normal process in the midst of the abnormal routine that life has become recently. I haven’t the motivation to play any April Fools on anyone, and none are played on me. I think this is probably the first time in my life this hasn’t happened.

There doesn’t seem much else to do today, so I try to start reading a book that a patient lent me a while ago, but for some reason I don’t seem to be able to get it started. I even thought about cutting the grass but little messages and emails still keep dripping through, mostly about the emergency hubs that still aren’t set up, and before I know it I’m listening to the 5pm press conference again. I was part of an LDC meeting straight after (again, held via Zoom) to discuss the emergency hubs and the seeming lack of progress in setting them up. I won’t say too much, but I don’t think the LDC are particularly impressed with the LAT over a few things.

I finally tried to watch a film later that evening but again, for some reason, just couldn’t get into it. It actually seems strange watching a film in a time before lockdown where people are actually stood next to one another.

Thursday became the day of the Acronym. I’m not actually sure how many more three-letter abbreviations I can handle. If it’s not the LDC discussing the UDC with the LAT, arguing about the right level of FFP for the PPE, and what is the SOP, then it’s the BDA disagreeing with the PHE over the PPE. For once there’s little mention of the CQC, GDC and the UDA, and the days of OHI, TTP, and BPE seem a long time in the past. My reaction to most of the stuff I’m reading varies between combinations of IDK, WTF, OMG, or FFS, with only the very occasional LOL. I suspect I shall be talking in acronyms for a long time after this has all finished TBH.

I have another webinar to give with Chris Barrow about the current state of whatever it is we are now finding ourselves in dentistry. Each day seems to bring new questions and few of the answers to the previous questions, and it certainly seems like the longest ten-day period in history.

It’s at times like this that I envy our dogs; they have absolutely no idea what is going on in our world and just live for the next moment. As long as they are warm, well fed, and loved, the world is all fine. I’m jealous.

I get a spreadsheet from NHS England asking for all my staff details for redeployment. This causes me somewhat of a dilemma, on many levels. First of all, all my staff are employed by a Ltd entity that has no NHS commitment. The only NHS we do in the practice amounts to 3% of our turnover. So, just who do I fill in on this spreadsheet??? By my calculations, if I pro-rata my team, then 3% of my workforce (if allocated to the NHS) is about 1 arm and 1 leg of a nurse and I’m not sure that’s entirely in the spirit of the document. I therefore ask the team via the WhatsApp group we have set up (the one I’m actually in, rather than their ‘Secret’ one they use to gossip on). I feel it is my responsibility to let them know just what risks they potentially face, especially given the discussions I’m party to about the PPE and how they would be working in an Urgent Dental Centre, and I do this as scientifically as I can with the information I have.

In the end, the LAT only get the names that volunteer to go down, and not just a list of everyone in the practice. Some have already volunteered to work in the community, and I am personally happier with their decisions to do that. This issue still doesn’t get over the fact that if staff are being ‘redeployed’ and I am going to be paying them, then I will still be liable for the working conditions they are in, despite having no control over them. That’s a big worry, and not necessarily one I’m sure all practitioners (especially those with much bigger NHS contracts) have considered. Once again, I’m thankful I don’t have a big NHS commitment, and that what little I have has no employees available to redeploy anyhow. Just before I send the list though, I ask the LAT for certain assurances for those on the list, which I’m fairly sure they can’t, won’t, or haven’t considered they should, provide these people.

Mid-afternoon and I find myself chatting to a colleague about some issues. I don’t actually think I know anything more about things than anyone else at this time, but then someone else tells me that the stuff that I think is common knowledge actually isn’t always, hence why I get asked. It worries me that the discussions I have with people might be seen as me having some form of authority, when certainly I know I haven’t, and I always try to make that clear. But as someone who has always tried to help others, I can’t suddenly stop trying now. At least I might know someone who actually does have some authority and put people in touch with someone who has a clue what is going on.

There is finally some time to walk the dogs. The Beagle as usual is like Tigger on crack and runs off in any direction but the one we are going in. Despite walking the same route most days, he seems to have again forgotten where he has sniffed previously and gives a perfect demonstration of the canine version of Brownian motion. The two older labs look at him with that resigned ‘the youth of today’ look whilst they plod along next to me, whilst the lab x pointer just gets on with dragging my son towards the horizon and ignoring everything and everyone. It’s at times like this that I envy our dogs; they have absolutely no idea what is going on in our world and just live for the next moment. As long as they are warm, well fed, and loved, the world is all fine. I’m jealous.

The last thing of the day is the weekly webinar with Chris Barrow and the panel he has assembled during this once in a lifetime (hopefully) period. We get confirmation just before we go live that the rules regarding mixed practice and what can be claimed as assistance have been clarified. It means that mixed practices now have the security of knowing the NHS side of the business can be treated separately to the private side, so these practices can access furloughing and business continuity loans for the private side, and the contract payments for the NHS side. As usual, we have loads of questions from the virtual audience, but this announcement alone seems to be one of the most important clarifications for the continued survival of these types of practices. It appears that finally the Government might have some idea of how our business models actually work.

All we need now is for the self-employed business owners and associates to get a bit of help……

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