Head of Sales, Zoe Close, looks at the latest Government announcement on the increased NHS activity target….
Until the evening of September 30, NHS dentists were in a position where they had absolutely zero control over what their immediate future was going to be. They were preparing to go to their practice the next day not knowing what contract they would be working to, and how much they were going to be paid.
For weeks we had been hearing calls from the BDA and other bodies for something to happen, but with the end of the 60% targets looming we had heard nothing. The fact that was the case just hours before the end of that arrangement really does show contempt towards the dental profession.
How can they have expected independent contractors to run their independent businesses in a way that meets the requirements of a contract, that they didn’t know the details of until hours before it was due to start?
Of course, we now know that until January 2022 dentists in England will be working to a 65% target, and if they fail to reach that level then they could face potential clawbacks.
On the back of that announcement, I spoke with one practice and a member of staff told me that the wondering and waiting has been so painful, and then when the news arrived it was just another level of pain, and that is how many practices are feeling right now. Many feel angry that they have been treated in this way and have had to wait so long to get answers.
There will be bigger practices out there that will be able to deal with this increase in activity targets, but there will be a lot more who will have been sweating and waiting for the late, new announcement.
My question that comes from the lateness of the new targets is that if you wanted to keep dentists onside and in the NHS, and prevent them from leaving to go private, you would have given them a lot more notice and delivered the news in a different way.
From a personal point of view, if my team were waiting for a big announcement that hadn’t arrived, I would still keep in touch with them and explain that, currently, we don’t have any news. But to not communicate a single thing with practices until the day before the new targets were due to begin is incompetent, and it has shown a complete lack of empathy to a profession that is already under great pressure.
It is like sending someone into work the next day and going, ‘sorry, I’m not sure what I am going to pay you today’. I think that silence until the very last moment really spoke volumes, and I think there is only going to be negatives as far as NHS England is concerned.
There will be some people who have been contemplating going private for some time and based on how this last announcement has been handled, will take their future into their own hands. Others will still remain on the fence and will continue to observe with interest over the coming months, whereas others will have had their confidence and self-belief eroded so much that they will be inclined to stay put and continue to accept what NHS England ask of them.
One of the main questions coming from the news is, why five per cent? What is that going to achieve? How is it going to benefit the NHS and how is it going to benefit the public if access issues are still the same? That question is on the lips of many at the moment.
So, for me, the whole situation shows a lack of respect for dentists, and how little thought has gone into paving a way forward to get practices back to some kind of normality – after all, the increased target hasn’t come with a reduction in standard operating procedures.