DENTAL BULLETIN, ISSUE 3
For a number of years now NHS Dentists have seen their progression pay chipped away. George Osborne announced in his 2015 Budget a further pay freeze on the public sector. And now Jeremy Hunt has confirmed negotiations will take place to see how the ‘virtually automatic’ pay increase given to NHS Dentists can be removed. Mr Hunt told MPs ‘Pay progression must be related to performance, rather than time in the job, and those who make the greatest contribution should see that rewarded in the pay system.’
However, it could be argued that the longer you have worked, the more experienced you are and the better you are at your job. This certainly should be the case in the dental profession bearing in mind the amount of regulations dentists are subject to. The current pay structure also rewards those who have remained committed to practising within the NHS, rather than seeking better paid private work.
In most other professions, one’s pay increases with experience so why should the NHS be any different? Surely, we want dentists to make a career in the NHS, but, in our opinion, this will only deter dentists from working in the NHS and erode the service.
And who will judge performance in this proposed new system; the GDC; the CQC?
Of course some more junior dentists may welcome these changes, being rewarded for skill rather than years in the job. The cynic in us however doubts that anyone will be better off in the long run if current plans to reduce expenditure wherever possible continues.
The Lion, the Dentist and the Crossbow
Last week a US dentist hit the headlines for shooting a lion with a crossbow, before tracking him for over 40 hours and shooting him dead. In a morbid twist, he kept the lion’s head as a trophy. Unfortunately for Dr Palmer, the lion, Cecil, was one of Africa’s most famous lions and his death caused international outrage. Many were also amazed to hear that Walter Palmer paid £32,000 to hunt wild animals whilst holidaying in Zimbabwe; apparently this is a popular sport for many.
The dentist now denies any wrong doing, saying that he believed the hunt to be legal and above board. He claims to have relied upon local, professional guides to ensure he was acting within the law. Dr Palmer has now gone into hiding, having received threats that he himself will be hunted and cruelly slaughtered. Those more moderate members of the public are calling for legal action to be taken against him. Dr Palmer has been forced to close his successful dental practice, from where he has been practising for many years.
So why is this relevant to UK dentists, other than the fact Walter Palmer is also a dentist? It is the perfect example of how bad press can ruin one’s personal reputation, and how that can have a detrimental effect on a practice that has been built up over the years. Members of public expect extremely high moral as well as medical standards from those who treat them. Although the case of Dr Palmer is an extreme one, always remember that any article in local papers or comments made on social media could impact adversely on your business.
A Prisoner Bites Back
As George Osborne announced this week that he expected governmental departments to find a further 40% in savings over the next 4 years, the NHS once again was heralded as “protected” from further cuts. However, those who are unfortunate enough to be incarcerated in our prison system do not appear to have the same right to adequate medical care. Yet another inmate issued proceedings against NHS Lancashire and the Prison Service last week, alleging that the dentist who had been provided to him in prison had “ruined his dentures”.
James Cullinane, a 51 year old who is currently serving life, is representing himself due to legal aid cuts. He is claiming £5,000 in damages due to the quality of care he has received in prison, and the considerable delays he has suffered before being allowed to see a dentist whilst in prison.
There have been a number of instances over the last few years where prisoners have successfully sued the prison service over the quality of their dental care. It is clear that the failure to ensure inmates have proper dental care is hugely expensive in the long run, both to the prison service, but also the NHS. There is no benefit in locking someone up for a number of years, and refusing them proper medical care. The only result is that when they are finally released the tax payer has to foot the bill to correct years of neglect.
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