Practice Plan’s Nigel Jones spoke to Eddie Crouch, the chair of the BDA’s Executive Committee, recently for the Inside Out: Dentistry Discussed webinar.
They spoke about a range of topics, including how the BDA stepped up to help dentists in need during the pandemic.
And what the biggest challenges have been and still are for dentists up and down the UK.
Nigel: It is clear from talking to professionals that there has been a huge number of challenges in 2020. I wanted to get your sense of the year and what parts of the BDA response you were proud of?
Eddie: We stepped up to the plate to negotiate for the profession and I would like to thank Dave Cottam and his vice chairs for managing to secure what they did; they were fantastic.
However, we did not manage to secure a lot of support for the private sector and that is something we tried our best to do. It did not happen and, therefore, some mixed-economy practices are struggling.
One thing I was proud of was that despite the fact the BDA staff are working from home, they managed to get so much valuable information to the professionals on a regular basis. There was plenty of talk on social media but the place to go for reliable information was the BDA website.
It is pleasing that we have seen a small increase in membership and with more members we are better placed to fight for the profession.
Nigel: It has shown the need for information when things are changing very rapidly, would you agree?
Eddie: It was mad how many virtual meetings were going on all day to resolve problems and answer questions that were constantly cropping up. Also, there was a huge media interest in dentistry which was phenomenal, and so overall, it has been a big challenge with long days.
I am very grateful to colleagues across the BDA and the local offices who have been working late into the evening.
Nigel: When you look back on 2020, there have been a massive number of things professionals have had to deal with. For you, what have been the notable key issues?
Eddie: It all blurs into one really but the collective way everyone came together to get urgent dental care centres working at a local level. Many colleagues put their own practices up to become centres so patients could have access to a service.
We saw in the pandemic what the world would look like without dentistry and it was not pretty.
We have seen patients having huge problems, so I have real pride in how practices came forward, when they were struggling to get PPE, to open practices across the country.
They have adapted and been phenomenal and stepped up to the plate in real adversity.
I think there is still a lot being made of fallow time and benefits of ventilation. In my own area, NHS England has been subsiding surveys to see what the air changes are like in practices.
Working with high level PPE over someone’s mouth for a long period is absolutely exhausting and whatever we can do to mitigate against that going forward is needed.
Practices are now getting into the rhythm of what to do safely but I am worried about the setting of targets when there has to be such a high level of safety. Practices are going to continue to worry about financial security of their practice and how they are going to avoid going off a cliff.
We have got mixed practices that have suffered badly because of fallow time and to put something in place that jeopardises that, like the 45% target, is a ridiculous thing for NHS England to have done.