Dentists are only NHS workers living on their savings during pandemic, warns BDA

Dentists across Northern Ireland are carrying dangerous levels of stress, with some unable to tell their spouses that their homes are at risk due to financial pressures, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 6:30 am
A dentist in full PPE gear during the coronavirus pandemic
A dentist in full PPE gear during the coronavirus pandemic

Thirty minutes of cleaning is currently required between patients due to Covid, slashing the number of patients that can be seen by 80%. The resulting loss of private fees is putting some 80 NI practices at risk, the BDA says.

Richard Graham, chair of the BDA’s NI Dental Practice Committee, said: “People are at breaking point. Practise owners have contacted me and said they have not taken a penny from their practises since March for pay.

“The doors are open - government support can keep the business going but there is nothing for the owners. They are working seven days a week under extreme physical and mental pressure for no money.

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“No other part of the health service is being asked to do that. Most of them are living on their savings at the moment and that just can’t continue.”

Some dentists who have contacted the BDA confide they have not discussed their growing financial vulnerability with their wives and families.

“We say to them - you really need to tell everyone what is going on. They don’t want to worry everybody at home. But taking that level of stress onto yourself is dangerous.”

One dentist in their twenties told the BDA: “I just want to retire. if we have to practise dentistry like this for the long term I don’t want to be a dentist.”

Another in their 30s said after a day working in PPE: “It was absolutely awful, mentally and physically draining”.

One BDA member said they were unable to get on top of the number of patients needing help. “The lists just keep getting longer,” they said.

Another said: “I still don’t know where this is all going to end. My friend is getting a practise valued to sell. Finding a buyer may be interesting at the moment.”

Yet another said they are currently “Hoping for a miracle”. They added: “I had the staff asking today asking if their jobs were safe. But I don’t even know if my house is safe as I had to use it for a bank loan.”

Because UK dentistry is a hybrid NHS-private model, dentists must take out loans in order to equip their practises.

“It is normal to use your home as collateral,” Mr Graham said. “The banks did allow a payback holiday for a while but these are now coming to an end. Soon they will come looking for interest.”

• BDA members under stress can get professional help at www.bda.org/stress

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