Articles, Dentistry

Referendum on the new contract

Referendums (or referenda if you prefer) are all the rage at present.

The Scots are having one this September to see if they should sue for divorce.

The eurosceptics would like one now to see if we should leave the EU.

What many dentists in England want to know is will they have a referendum on the proposed new contract? My slightly informed guess is no!

True the minister in his Manchester speech said he wanted change to have the support of the profession.

But giving those who labour at the coalface the opportunity to veto the plans of the great and the good who are working on the pilots (soon to be prototypes) is anathema to those in power.

It was an honest politician who said when he lost his seat: 'The people have spoken, damn them'.

But more sophisticated reasons have been given.

Lack of Parliamentary time to enact any necessary legislation is a good stand-by, but a thin Queen's speech gives the lie to that.

So what has been coming out for some months now is that it will not be a new contract but reform of the existing contract.

No UDAs yes, but the essential architecture of a contract commissioned by NHS England and implemented by contractors remains.

Now only 20% of dentists have an NHS contract, the remainder are corporates.

Do the latter have a vote in a referendum? Are the votes of those with more than one dentist 'weighted' to reflect thus?

And what of the 80% of dentists who have no contract, the associates, will they have a vote? If so how relevant would it be?

So if a referendum of dentists on contract changes is out, how will the minister judge that they do or do not have the support of the profession? Step forward the consultation.

Now I remember the days when we used to vote for whichever bunch of 'hopefuls' would do the least damage.

Whichever won the most seats in Parliament or your local council became the bosses and made the decisions.

Not any more, you have to have a consultation and indeed we were promised this by the minister, although he called it an 'engagement' exercise.

Now I am a touch cynical about these.

It seems to me that no matter what they get in responses, they do what they intended in the first place.

Nevertheless someone has to fire the starting gun by producing consultation documents.

I was assured these would be published by the end of May.

It is now June.

Why are we waiting?

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