I have, over the past weeks, received a great many emails and messages from dentists in my constituency. Their unique circumstances has led them to fall through the gaps of Government support and this could cause huge problems for us all.
Most dentists in the UK are mixed. They take on a combination of private and NHS patients. These dental practices are not getting the support that they need from the existing measures and many are fearing bankruptcy and ultimately closure. This will leave many of my constituents who receive NHS dental care through one of these practices without a dentist to go to.
Whilst NHS funding is continuing, this is not enough on its own to sustain a practice. Dentists do not qualify for the £25,000 grant funding given to small businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector. They do not seem to be able to get a Government backed loan either nor do they qualify for cover from coronavirus related hardship through their insurance companies. Like with nurseries, dentists with NHS contracts do not seem to qualify for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (or ‘furlough’ scheme’) due to the fact they are receiving government money via their NHS contract. This money will not cover staff costs, let alone all the other overheads that a standard practice has to incur.
Lastly, it is important to remember that dentists are self-employed. The average income of an associate dentist is £69,000 p/a. Whilst this is significantly above average, particularly for the self-employed, it is certainly not enough to sustain a long period out of work and out of pocket. The Self Employment Scheme set out by the Government is capped at £50,000 p/a.
On the 9th of April I sent this email to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.I am yet to receive a reply. I have therefore teamed up with 100 other MPs to make these three very simple demands.
The £50,000 cap to be raised on the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS)
Easier access to the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS)
Business rates relief to be extended to all practices
I hope that we manage to make a breakthrough and that we will see measures put in place to support our dentists. We need them.