The CQC – unanswered questions and misinformation
In the past week the CQC appear to have been on something of a charm offensive. We’ve seen John Milne, Senior National Professional Advisor, taking part in webinars on Facebook and meeting with the newly formed ‘British Association of Private Dentists’ (BAPD).
The CQC’s published analysis of a meeting that took place on the 19th June 2020 between the CQC and the BAPD is interesting to read. In particular, their analysis of what happened during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The CQC note of the meeting with the BDPA states as follows:
“It was clear from the outset that Dental Practice was exempted from closure under the COVID Act, and the CQC position was to respect this whilst at the same time encouraging practice to give due regard to the ‘Stay Safe’ ‘Stay Socially Distant’ message from Government.
This has been a very challenging and distressing time for the sector with many providers being unsure of where to get advice and support. When contacted CQC’s response at the time was very similar to that of the GDC’s in the sense that if a practice was in a safe position to deliver care where it was clearly in the best interest of the patient to do so, then they were unlikely to fall foul of the CQC regulations.
As well as messaging on our website, CQC did also write to each practice in England with updated information regarding our position throughout the period.”
This is an extraordinary analysis of the facts, and one which many private dentists may struggle to recognise. For the avoidance of doubt, as of the 18th May 2020, this was the guidance of the CQC:
There was no ambiguity. Thousands of dentists did not ‘misunderstand’ or choose to close their practices voluntarily. The government deliberately excluded dental practices from the Coronavirus Act as good dental care is fundamental to the overall health of the nation. The CQC failed in their duty to the public by unlawfully directing all dental practices to stop providing routine dental care and to follow the guidance of the CDO.
This unlawful action has caused significant damage to private dentists across the country. It is unfortunate, that instead of accepting any wrongdoing and apologising for their role in this abject failure by the regulators to support and guide dentists during Covid, they have doubled down on the misinformation being provided.
On the 29th June, Nicky Rowland ran a question and answer session with John Milne on the Facebook Group “Leadership in Dentistry”. The purpose of the webinar was to reassure dentists moving forwards as to how practices will be regulated by the CQC. Mr Milne was asked by Ms Rowland how the CQC views the financial sustainability of dental practices moving forward; a critical and important question for the profession. Here is his answer:
“It is not really the core business of the CQC, the core business is that the public get services that are safe. Financial sustainability is a tricky one. Particularly if it is necessary to deliver treatments safely it is increasing…Private practices do of course, in terms of the treatment that they have been able to provide, or felt able to safely provide, again the time factor and the cost of PPE all of these things have had a huge effect, it would be simple to say you can just put your feet up, but actually that makes private dentistry more difficult to get, it means that some people wont be able to get access to dental care, roughly only about 50% of the population receive NHS dental care as well, so all of these considerations can have an effect on the oral health of the nation as a whole. So I think we wouldn’t be a very good regulator if we weren’t aware of that. Which then takes you on to fees.
It has been a tough 3 months. Where practices have found themselves in difficulty, particularly if they have just received the invoice from the CQC for their fees, if people are having difficulty, they can contact the fees office. I know that some people have done that, and I know that some people are being offered payment plans.”
Based on the above, the CQC’s actions stopped 50% of the population from accessing their chosen dentist during lockdown, with no regulatory or legislative power to do so. As a result, hundreds of practices face financial ruin.
This does beg the question, why are dental practices paying for three months of fees where they were unlawfully directed to close by the CQC? What are those fees for?
CQC Legal Challenge
We have analysed data from 9 private practices in England. These varied from general dental practices to purely specialist referral practices. Thousands of patient appointments were cancelled as a result of the CQC direction to follow the guidance of the CDO. It is not clear what the ongoing effects will be on the nation’s dental health as a result of patient’s inability to access the care they needed.
The average financial losses for the period between the 25th March 2020 and the 1st June 2020 for the practices we analysed amounts to £118,000. During this time practices continued to pay running costs, support their patients and staff. This loss has jeopardised the long-term stability of many practices.
We will shortly be sending a letter before action to the CQC setting out the legal basis why compensation should be paid to practices for the period of closure.
We now need you!
If you are private dental practice owner, own a “squat” or are a partner in a fee sharing agreement, and would like to recover some of your losses for the period that your practice was closed contact us now.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org provide your practice name, contact details and we will contact you to discuss next steps.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written which may affect the information and advice given therein.