The British Dental Association has found that 71.5% of dental practices believe they can only survive for three months or less during the Covi-19 period, and 20.4% think they are likely to go bust by the end of April. 28.7% of practices consider they will be in the financial position to restore patient access to pre-pandemic levels, and 25% have applied for a government interruption loan, with 93.4% failing to secure backing. 46.7% of those who were unsuccessful have had to apply for commercial loans subject to in excess of 20% interest rates.
Dr Andrea Ubhi, a cosmetic dentist and director of Andrea Ubhi Dentistry, said (abridged): “Private practices seem to have fallen between the cracks of government help. Yes, we can furlough staff and they can receive 80% of the wages. However, at present, we don’t qualify for the closure grant or council tax rebate. As most dentists earn over £50,000, then we don’t qualify for furlough pay. The government loans are difficult to get, slow, and if the risk is high, word has it that the interest rate after the initial period is crippling. NHS practices seem to have come out winning with up to 90% of their contract still being delivered. However, it is unclear if they will need to make up lost UDAs, and the increase in cost of future PPE could be crippling if margins are tight. The viability of NHS practices is still uncertain. As a result, private dentists are earning zero at present. Private practices are going into the red every day with overheads. If we are to save these practices, then they are going to need bailouts, more than is on offer now.”
“It was right to suspend all non-urgent care, but without meaningful support the nation’s dental services face decimation“
Christina Chatfield, a dental hygienist and owner of Dental Health Spa in Brighton, said (abridged): “I am fighting for my staff and my life. We’ve been triaging and delivering antibiotics to patients. For some patients, we haven’t been charging them -my dentist took a Hippocratic Oath to care for his patients. The debt I will incur as a result of this will take years and years to pay back. I knew when I started my business that I would have to fight for it. I didn’t think that it would be a pandemic that would lead to its closure. I also took an A1 property (shops and retail) and converted it to a D1 property (medical or educational purpose) but we were kept on retail rates. The case rate per square foot is £474. This compares to £170 for a dental practice. My saving grace is that I borrowed money to buy a digital scanner. However, I’ve now cancelled this order but kept the loan. We would have gone into our overdraft otherwise and all my staff would have been lost. I drive past other businesses as I head out for my morning swim in the sea. The hairdressing salon, the corner shop – they will all be able to survive. We were just turning a corner. This could destroy it.”
Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, 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.”