I am off to the BDA conference this week. Looking through the brochure, I was intrigued to see that a major sponsor was IDH. Now the BDA is a union and IDH says it employs dentists.
So, why is an employer sponsoring a union's conference? Would RMT boss, Bob Crow ask Transport for London to sponsor his annual conference? I think not. He knows which side he is on, does the BDA?
To expand on this, I looked at figures which reported that almost 8,000 senior NHS staff were paid six figures salaries while nurses were 'run ragged' because of low staff levels.
Health minister Norman Lamb has also criticised care firms who pay below the minimum wage and do not allow carers sufficient time to provide an adequate service.
I believe there is a parallel in NHS dentistry. Since the 2006 contract, associates have been worse off financially. The practice owners, and that includes corporates, who ‘employ’ the associates have done better.
Corporates have a reputation for using cheaper associates from other EU countries. Those in pilots are said to favour using hygienists and therapists rather than dentists.
This trend is likely to accelerate in the future, with a new contract, direct access and most significantly the 20% ‘efficiency savings’ (in other words, cuts) that NHS England is trying to achieve.
I don’t blame corporates for trying to make a profit, that’s business and those who bought into them are looking for a return on their investment. But it is likely to be at the expense of younger associate dentists.
The BDA needs to remember that three quarters of general dental practitioners are associates. Their interests need to be represented by their trade union. The BDA puts itself in a difficult position if it relies on funding from an ‘employer’ to fund its conference.
Its members may well ask it which side it is on.
Michael Watson, news correspondent