In his second blog on the Welsh response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom Bysouth discusses the latest measures to support dental workers in Wales, from financial strategies to guidance on PPE.
This is an incredibly worrying time and we appreciate that anxiety is exacerbated by uncertainty. Practice owners are greatly concerned about the sustainability of their practices. Associates are worried they won’t be fairly remunerated. This is particularly true for owners and associates if they provide a mix of NHS and private work, or are wholly private.
Last week I discussed what terms might be feasible with the NHS contract payment in Wales. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model - the CDO agrees on that point. Most government-backed schemes are set at 80% of an individual’s income up to a pay ceiling, not 100% with no pay ceiling, as was articulated in the latest Welsh Government directive regarding NHS GSD payments. Nevertheless, Dr Bridgman has remained firm on the Welsh Government's payment model for associates and dental staff for this quarter; that they will receive 100% of their net NHS pay for April, May and June.
Supporting mixed-practice and self-employed workers
Further communication from the CDO's office has clarified that mixed-contract practice owners are eligible for Government-backed financial support for the private element of the business. This makes a big difference to practice owners being able to furlough eligible staff. Given this development, we have concluded consultation about the NHS contract provisions for the three-month period April to June 2020.
However, this use of government support for private practice may not protect associates or practice owners, given the Government’s current rule on the £50K salary cut off. We have joined forces with other health-care associations and have written to the Chancellor about the inequity of this situation, asking for a rule change and equitable treatment of self-employed workers.
Personal Protective Equipment and Urgent Dental Centres
Dentists are concerned about ongoing support for their patients and are anxious about whether they will have the right level of PPE in the various situations they find themselves working over the next few weeks and months. The Welsh Government has just
published detailed guidance about safe working in GDS and Urgent Dental Centres (UDCs).
The UDCs are now up and running around Wales and the CDS have reported that their colleagues in cold and hot clinics are seeing patients and systems are working well. The Welsh CDO has made it clear that redeployment of dentists and other staff into the UDCs is voluntary. I believe this decision boils down to individual circumstances, including those of family and other responsibilities. I have colleagues who have already been fit-tested, trained and are poised to be redeployed.
There are never enough words to say thank you to everyone who has worked so tirelessly within the dental field in the last month. Working to do the very best they can for their patients and their colleagues during this time. I have seen many acts of kindness and generosity. Despite the many worries we have about the impacts of this virus on our nearest and dearest, I have been buoyed up by the selflessness of so many to do the best they can in these difficult times.
The BDA will continue to provide support to members over the Easter weekend on Friday and Saturday.
I wish everyone some rest and recuperation over the long weekend and I trust you stay well.
Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee