The day the Chief Dental Officer (CDO) speaks to us and finally breaks cover. I’m actually looking forward to some leadership at long last and feel quietly confident we are going to get through this.
I’m feeling quite positive today therefore, as there is a lot likely to go on with the political side of things. I have to join a large virtual meeting with the rest of the BDA’s General Dental Practitioners Committee to discuss the issues that are being raised nationally and locally by the Local Dental Committee’s (LDCs) we are all involved with. It certainly seems it is quicker to set up a 4000-bed hospital from scratch in nine days than expect the Local Area Teams (LATs) to set up urgent dental centres in pre-existing sites with a pre-existing workforce. I can’t, and won’t go into too much detail here, but it is apparent that the issue is nationwide and not restricted to a few localities.
The meeting is pretty detailed and takes about 90 minutes, so then it’s back to the emails. I get a couple from people thanking me for my somewhat frank and apparently hilarious take on the situation last night on Chris Barrow’s weekly panel webinar. Sometimes I wish I had a better filter before I open my mouth, but apparently I’m saying what a lot of other people are thinking, although using more picturesque analogies!
Email communication with some patients is something that I’m finding enjoyable, and important at this time. I’m happy letting them have my personal email, although I also have work diverts in place for them as well. It’s nice to just chat with some of them about their queries, and I think its vitally important that patients know we are there for them and present in the virtual world to help if needed. I’m not convinced that all practices are doing this, but I’m also aware that people don’t want bombarding with emails and videos all the time, so trying to find a happy medium is becoming the challenge. I’m lucky to work with some fantastic people both in my team, and externally, such as Kevin Rose, and we talk a lot about the community that we, as a practice, are part of and how important the role that we can and should play at this time is.
I finally then get around to cutting the lawn for the first time this year. Usually this involves a manner of cursing and yelling as the mower is not-so-gently persuaded to arise from its winter slumber. But this year it’s almost as if it knows I’m a bit more emotionally fragile and starts first time. I while away a happy hour or so just not thinking about anything but straight lines, whilst listening to a Harry Potter audio book just for the sheer child-like enjoyment of not having to think too hard.
Some of you have got guns, the bullets aren’t the right type but someone says they’ll be ok, and your orders are on Google. Right, tally ho chaps.
And so it comes to 5.00 pm. The long-awaited broadcast from the CDO, showing us the leadership that the profession needs at this difficult time. I’ve simultaneously opened all my social media feeds, Whatsapp and personal messaging so I can gauge my colleague’s opinions. I’m initially disappointed not to get into the meeting via the link, so consider watching it later, when all of a sudden the media streams go wild.
For those who watched it, I don’t intend carrying out a post-mortem of it. For those who didn’t, please watch it and then make your own opinion before reading further.
I can honestly say that after finally managing to get on the stream, and re-watching the bit I missed, I have never felt so professionally destroyed in my entire life. I was filled with shock that we could be treated with such disdain and apparent contempt (especially if you are a private practitioner). Many people have pointed out the message was confused and contradictory in parts, especially with regard to whether we can or can’t see patients if there is no urgent facility available.
I have to go for a walk. I am incandescent and want to put my thoughts down on paper immediately, but thankfully my very much more balanced wife, Claire, tells me not to. I think many will be now scared to voice their opinions publicly as a result of the CDO actually reporting someone to the GDC (admittedly for an April fool joke that many would see was in poor taste). Claire is of course right at this point, but it doesn’t stop me thinking the CDO has done more to damage the morale of the profession in one hour than her predecessor managed in about 14 years. I’m particularly incensed that the parting comment was that all the information we need is on Google, and to look for it there.
For someone with the military background of the CDO (an ex-colonel in the army), I am astounded at this comment. It can’t be just me that thinks it’s inconceivable in the military that a commanding officer would instruct their troops, about to jump from a plane or land on a beach under enemy fire, to stand up and say, ‘Some of you have got guns, the bullets aren’t the right type but someone says they’ll be ok, and your orders are on Google. Right, tally ho chaps.’
Social media lights up as expected all night, and it appears unanimous that the feeling of the profession is one of utter anger. I can’t see that this was the intention of the CDO, and would hope that she is made acutely aware of the feeling now running hotly through the profession that she should resign immediately. One can only hope the weekend gives her time for reflection as it has indeed us all.
I’ve never felt closer to giving up the profession for good as I have tonight.