Large parts of the UK’s dental service are at risk of imminent collapse without urgent steps to support small business says the British Dental Association, with a poll suggesting 70% of practices report that they can only maintain financial viability for a maximum of three months. Those providing predominantly private care are worst affected.
A poll capturing the responses of nearly a quarter of all practices in the UK has revealed:
- With all routine care now suspended 71.5% of practices report they can only remain financially sustainable for 3 months or less. 1 in 5 (20.4%) estimate they can only survive the month.
- Less than a third (28.7%) estimate they will be placed to restore pre-pandemic levels of patient access.
- 26% of practices have already attempted to secure a government-backed interruption loan, but 93.4% of applicants were unable to secure credit. 46.7% of those who failed have already had to seek commercial loans to stay afloat, at reported rates of interest of over 20%.
- The vast majority of UK practices are mixed, delivering both NHS and private care in varying proportions. Practices performing a greater share of private work appear most exposed, with 75% of those with low or no NHS commitment (0-25% NHS) stating they will face imminent difficulties in the next three months, falling to 60.7% among those with the highest NHS commitments (75% or more of NHS activity).
While the NHS side of practices have been offered some support by government, the BDA has warned that if those practices with a greater reliance on private work go under whatever service remains will be unable to meet patient demand.
The private side of dentistry effectively cross subsidises a diminishing NHS budget, with total spend on private care exceeding the UK-wide NHS dental budget every year since 2012. Unmet need for NHS dental services was estimated last year at around four million adults in England.
Dentist leaders are pressing for the full rates relief offered to the retail and hospitality sectors to be extended to all high street practices, and for pledges to simplify and expand the government loan scheme to be expedited.
All self-employed dentists, particularly those working in private practice, need access to the support outlined by the Chancellor. Those earning anything above £50,000 are currently entirely excluded.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:
“Many practices are now weeks from a cliff edge, saddling themselves with debt they may never be able to repay.
“It was right to suspend all non-urgent care, but without meaningful support the nation’s dental services face decimation, and no practice can be excluded.
“Dentistry cannot weather this storm when nearly every surgery relies on private care to stay afloat. If officials let these vital services go to the wall the impact will be felt by patients in every community in Britain.”
BDA poll of owners UK dental practices (2860 practices responding, or 24.3% of an est. total of 11,800). Fieldwork 1-6 April 2020
Please estimate the risk to the sustainability of your practice presented by the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Up to 1 month
12 months +
How long would you estimate you are able to maintain the financial viability of your practice?
Neither unlikely nor likely||
Please estimate the likelihood of your practice returning to pre-pandemic levels of service or access following the crisis?
Have you attempted to secure a government-backed Business Interruption Loan?
Of those who tried to secure a Business Interruption Loan
Was your attempt to secure a Business Interruption Loan successful?
Of those who failed to secure a Business Interruption Loan
Have you pursued any other loans subject to commercial rates of interest?