Lori MacGregor, daughter of Dental Health Spa’s owner Christina Chatfield, has written a letter explaining the dire situation they, and other healthcare businesses, are in. We have reproduced it below.
‘I’m looking to raise awareness for the lack of financial support for dental practices in the UK during the current pandemic.
‘My mum’s dental practice in Brighton, Dental Health Spa, is due to go bankrupt in the next few weeks. Earlier this month, she posted a one minute video plea on Facebook, which you can view here:
‘As it stands, as outlined in this letter signed by 101 MPs to the Chancellor, and based on research carried out by the British Dental Association, 70% of dental practices are due to close permanently in the UK due to lack of financial support from the government. That letter was dated 21st April. It’s already May, and nothing has changed. You can view that letter here:
‘Please help us by sharing and signing this petition.
It does seem that because some NHS dental practices qualify for funding, that all dental services have been lumped in with public services. Obviously many are falling through the gaps. Some will get some support because their rates will be under £15k and so will get the £10K grant, but only if they own a single practice. Those that own two or more practices with a rateable value under £15k receive no help, and those with a rateable value above £15k also receive no help. I will point out that a company like Greggs, for example, can claim up to a total of £800,000 for multiple properties above the £15k rateable value. Whilst obviously Greggs does provide jobs for many people across the UK, dentistry is an actual health service.
‘I would like to confirm that my mum’s practice, Dental Health Spa, does not qualify for an NHS contract. This is because the practice is owned by a hygienist and not a dentist, and therefore does not have an NHS performer number. This also means if she was working in an NHS practice as a self employed hygienist, she would not be automatically entitled to a share of NHS funding, as it would automatically go to the dentist.
‘Yes, some practices have good NHS contracts, and so money is coming in to cover premises costs/equipment financing/skeleton staffing, and they are waiting for instructions on how their teams can be redeployed to the wider Covid-19 response. Some of these practices will struggle with the social distancing that will be needed post lockdown.
‘For others with little or no NHS funding, like Dental Health Spa, cash flow is running out and monthly business rates are unsustainable – my mum pays £2,098 a month in retail rates (not the cheaper dental rates). Although staff are furloughed, she and other practices still have other fixed costs like rent and bills. Staff will need a job to return to, so the retail business rates relief for private dental practices is essential. Additionally, the grant will allow practices to purchase air purification systems to remove the aerosols, and help with the considerable increase in costs for enhanced PPE, which will be essential for reopening to continue carrying out care.
‘Standard PPE used previously in dentistry are not sufficient to guard either the dentist or the patient from aerosol/droplets, which pretty much renders my mum’s practice and others to do little more than remotely prescribe analgesics or antibiotics over the phone. The right kind of PPE is in short supply and has to go to the frontline first.
‘The establishment of urgent care centres was also promised for emergency dentistry, but they have taken many weeks to get up and running. Some can still not get PPE, the public is not allowed to know where they are and still have to be referred by a dentist. This is leaving much of the public without access to care, as reported on BBC Breakfast:
‘I will reaffirm that dentistry provides essential healthcare to the public. My mum’s practice has had over 13,000 members of the public walk through her doors over the last 13 years, either because of lack of access to NHS dentistry, or because they chose not to use the NHS. It is absolutely absurd that she and other private dental practices cannot get the support that most of the other businesses on the high street are receiving – hairdressers, tanning salons and vape shops to name but a few. Her practice provides employment for eight nurses, seven self-employed clinicians and apprenticeship training for nurses. Private practices bolster an already failing, underfunded NHS. You can view the impact dental health has on wider health here: As oral health becomes neglected, the impact it has on oral cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and dementia will only put extra strain on an already overstretched, underfunded NHS.
‘I believe that we need a stronger voice, many other private/NHS dental practices are in the position of the £15k to £51K exclusion. It seems not all MPs understand the situation. Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell for example, replied to a dentist in his constituency who reached out for support, by saying that dentists haven’t been instructed to close. This directly contradicts instructions given by the General Dental Council & Care Quality Commission. I understand that the issues surrounding support for dentistry at the moment are quite complex, but this is a flat out lie. The Government will not overturn this without pressure.
‘All businesses need to be treated the same. Dental practices are not calling for extra help, just the same help being afforded to other businesses. The rate relief and grants won’t need to be paid back, but bank loans will need to be. With equipment and material costs, equipment maintenance, the dentist’s fee, the wage of assisting nurses, rent, rates, bills, external dental technician rates and fees, and running a reduced number of surgeries to adhere with social distancing, paying back a loan will just add more financial stress to businesses.
‘I am in regular contact with my mum’s local MP, Caroline Lucas, who is doing all she can to help locally. But this is a much wider issue, affecting dental practices all over the UK. If practices close, it will be the public that lose out on access to essential healthcare, and as a result force people to attempt DIY dentistry at home, something which is already happening, and an upsurge in those needing to attend A&E.
‘My mum is an advocate for change, having helped fight for the law change in the UK to make it legal for anyone to walk off the street and see any hygienist without having to pay a referral fee from their dentist – a successful attempt to get those scared of dentists in the dental chair. She collaboratively set up mouth cancer charity Moveit4Smiles, has raised tens of thousands of pounds by walking thousands of miles, and was involved heavily with the campaign to get HPV vaccinations for boys. She does not deserve to lose her business and home because the Chancellor has chosen to overlook her profession. Nor do the public deserve to lose their right to choose their care provider because access to an essential health care system is no longer available.
‘Please help us by sharing and signing this petition.
We need to reach 100,000 signatures for an adequate response from the government: