How would a six-month coronavirus lockdown impact dentistry?
We ask dentists what might happen to dentistry in the UK if lockdown carried on for the next six months.
On Sunday the deputy chief medical officer said it could take six months before the UK returns to what feels like ‘normal’. Despite emphasising ‘This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months’ many believe it will take a while for businesses to get back up to speed.
We asked a few dentists how it would impact them if dentistry were to lockdown for the next six months.
Andrea Ubhi, director of Andrea Ubhi Dentistry
We’re a 100% private practice. So for all of us in the same situation, our income during lockdown is zero. However, despite every attempt to cut outgoings, some costs still continue.
The Job Retention Scheme with furloughed pay for employees is a life-saver. However, remember that employee costs are still accumulating. Employees’ holidays still accumulate throughout this time, as they do throughout maternity leave. We can request employees to take their holidays during this time. But we need to give double notice, eg If we want them to take one week, we need to give them two weeks’ notice. However, we will need to top up their furlough pay to 100% of their usual wage, rather than furloughed pay at 80%.
The alternative is that we ask employees to take these accumulated holidays over the following two years, according to government guidelines. However, this will significantly reduce production later when we need them most and simply postpone the burden of cost.
Now, call me a pessimist if you like, however the realist inside me is saying there is a chance the economy won’t just bounce back on day one after lockdown. A big fat chance. In fact, there is a high risk of a global recession lasting several years. This means we need to be ready to trim back quickly to survive.
In my opinion, we shouldn’t fear the period of lockdown so much. Yes, lockdown will dent the business current account balance. The period of greatest danger, is when we get back up and running.
If patient demand is less post-lockdown due to an economic downturn, then the most crucial and dangerous time for our businesses is going to be the following months. Our costs will ramp up to ‘pre-lockdown normal,’ including wages and monthly contracts, and the income is likely to drop.
That’s when cashflow is going to be critical. Yep, cashflow is king.
I am applying for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – not because I think I need one, but in case I am wrong. If cashflow is better than I am predicting for our practice, I can always repay after 12 months 0% free. If not, we are ready.
I remember the 2008 crash. The ones who were slow reacting didn’t trim costs back quickly. They lost big money and went bankrupt. The ones who became lean and focused on cashflow, survived.
We will have to maintain lean costs to survive. All the best people. We’re in this together.
Bethany Rushworth, award-winning associate dentist in Yorkshire
The prospect of a six-month lockdown of dentistry is a scary one. I cannot imagine there will be a single dentist or hygienist/therapist who wouldn’t find this incredibly difficult.
Regardless of the interruption to our daily routines, the loss of income and inevitable stress associated with this, the potential loss of patients due to unkind and inconsiderate ‘patient poaching’ by those taking advantage of the situation, it could serve a huge blow to our mental well-being and to be honest, our identity.
As someone who has worked incredibly hard to be in the position I am today, being a dentist is part of who I am. My job and my life are fluid, almost interchangeable. Having the ability to do something I am passionate about every day removed from me is upsetting. It’s hard – and I’m sure it’s going to keep getting harder for weeks if not months to come. The longer this goes on for, the more I feel the hit of being away from clinical dentistry.
Living in lockdown
That being said, each day that passes, the proportion of my time spent thinking about the coronavirus has reduced. The constant over-analysing and ‘what ifs?’ I had at the start of this pandemic are subsiding. The time I spend talking to friends and family is increasing and it is forcing me to slow down.
This isn’t an in-between phase, we can’t have these days again, it is still life, however different, and I am absolutely adamant I am going to make the most of every single day. Quarantine or no quarantine!
Undoubtedly this will come with ups and downs. I will continue to evaluate spending and outgoings. Plans (such as our wedding!) have been put on hold. I will keep longing to be back in the surgery. But I know there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Even if this means starting from scratch in many ways.
Life might never be the same again, maybe it will be better. One day I might be grateful to have had such a shake up aged 27 that I reassessed my priorities, changed what stressed me, put my friends and family even higher as a priority and took a moment to be present. Because that is all we have in life really, the here and now.