Dentistry needs true leadership during coronavirus crisis

dental practice lacking leadershipThe coronavirus outbreak is leaving a lot of questions for dentists, dental teams and practices unanswered, Jeff Sherer says.

About six weeks ago I was scanning the internet beginning to look for what might a fun family holiday. I had never heard of the coronavirus, let alone knowing it would change the world situation so drastically and so quickly.

Now, rather than thinking about putting on sun cream, my focus is on hand washing and how many boxes of masks I can order each week.

In times of a crisis one looks to good leadership for direction. After all, one of the key lines of enquiry for the CQC is being ‘well led’.

Irrespective of the overall government response to this crisis and (let us hope they get it correct) it is rather disheartening to see that there is no real leadership in the dentistry field.

Unanswered questions

My brave team have been stepping up every day seeing patients and risking their own well being to treat patients.

I myself have been visiting the practices and seeing patients too. I could lock myself away at home and not go out, but what example does that set for the team?

As we employ over 150 people and are treating some 70,000 patients around the country each year, the numbers say that at some point a patient or staff member will be affected by this virus.

When I have contacted the NHS about the situation regarding UDAs, with questions such as what happens if we cannot complete our UDAs this year? What happens if the practice has to close for a month in April? Will the NHSBSA halt our payments because we are below 30% delivery? Answers are seriously lacking. We just get back generic emails.

These days an individual doesn’t even sign off an email. Neither the BDA or the NHS can provide an answer to these questions yet.

All the focus is on what happens if a patient is unwell (and I understand the importance of this), but what about the team? What if nurses, receptionists, dentists are unable to perform their duties? What does the GDC say if a practice patient in pain cannot see a dentist due to staff sickness? And what happens if patients cannot attend for two months due to staff illness and they have an open course of treatment?

Leadership

I believe it is time for those in charge of dentistry at NHS England, BDA, CQC and the GDC to step up and show true leadership.

Give us answers. Give us a protocols. Remove the doubt for practice owners and the team.

Our business continuity plan is now becoming one of the most important practice documents.

The motivation of my colleagues and fellow professionals at practice level has really inspired me. I am sure this is the case in many practices around the country. No moaning just getting on with the job in hand.

I know we will all get through this and come out stronger for the experience. Wishing everyone in dentistry strength, courage and good health!