Urgent dental care centres shut as NHS refuses funding
Urgent dental care centres across Hertfordshire have shut their doors after the NHS refused to promise any extra funding.
The NHS set up four urgent dental care centres across Hertfordshire to provide care for 1.2 million people. This was on the promise from Local Dental Committees and Local Dental Networks that further funding for the service will come. With their closure, patients from Hertfordshire will now have to travel in excess of 30 miles to see their nearest urgent dental care centre.
Despite ongoing discussions over the past month, NHS commissioners have refused any further funding. Instead they insist that practices use existing NHS contract payments to fund the service.
‘I accepted becoming an urgent dental care centre on the promise that the NHS would treat us fairly,’ an anonymous dentist in Hertfordshire told Dentistry Online.
‘Having set up the urgent dental care centre, we cannot furlough staff members and claim under the job retention scheme. I have spent exhaustive savings to set up the clinic, which other practices have earmarked to survive this pandemic so they have a business on the other side. We’ve done a whole month’s work, outlaid all the equipment to get the practice up to standard ourselves.
‘It simply isn’t right that the NHS expects dentists, nurses, receptionists etc to provide frontline services for no funding’.
He also went on to say: ‘We haven’t even given our costings for reimbursement. We simply can’t understand why we were commissioned if there was no money and never any intention for money. To directly string me along for a week and a half by saying they were working on this is misleading. All whilst my team are on the frontline treating patients.’
‘We cannot personally fund an NHS service’
All chief dental officers across the UK advised dental practices to shut their doors to patients on the 26 March.
Since then the NHS and local dental committees are setting up urgent dental care centres to help deal with emergency dental treatments.
The government has promised additional funding for the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Dentistry Online understands only two areas – Wessex and Thames Valley – have received additional funding to provide urgent dental centres.
‘It should be about the patients,’ the anonymous dentist continues. ‘The Chancellor has repeatedly said this, whilst wiping off millions in hospital debts.
‘Ultimately, we cannot personally fund an NHS service. Whilst also keeping our business afloat during the pandemic.
‘The commissioner has not allowed us to subsidise the NHS work with private work. The NHS is backing us into a corner and saying you have to work with what you’ve got.
‘There’s no acknowledgement and appreciation for the serious shift work that our team has put in. The situation scares the team. I speak to them every couple of hours to reassure them and to make sure we’re performing optimally to look after patients. Although the system is flawed, we’re trying to make sure patients are seen as quickly as possible.
‘The worry is that the NHS will then turn around and say no to us getting any further money for this and I will have to close my business.’
In her last webinar, Sara Hurley hailed practices in the east of England for their great work.
The NHS previously announced it would continue payments to dental practices. In return, all practices would need to do is offer patients with urgent needs appropriate advice and prescriptions over the phone.
‘People across the east of England can be treated for urgent or emergency dental problems at one of the urgent dental care hubs in the region,’ Rachel Webb, director of primary care and public health for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the east of England, said. ‘We are constantly working with all of our providers of these hubs to ensure services meet patients’ needs.
‘Anyone who needs urgent or emergency dental care should call their usual dentist in the first instance or use the NHS 111 online service available for advice on what to do.’