Interview with Simon Thackeray
What would you say are the key influencing factors which have caused such a decrease in confidence levels across the board?
For me, it's the lack of trust in the government over past contracts, a lack of clarity as to what is likely to be available in any new contract, a lack of a clear timescale for the imposition of the contract - because it is likely to be imposed in some form to benefit the Government and not patients or the profession despite the best efforts of negotiators - the reality of more work for less money, as usual, and finally, the GDC and its lack of proportionality, which also adds to the lack of morale.
What do you believe the Government will make of these results?
Ignore them. They have an agenda to control the costs of the dental budget and will probably end up negotiating directly with ‘favoured providers’ in the future, such as the big corporates, so that they can distance themselves from any problems with the contract. The workforce issues will become someone else’s problem to solve i.e. the corporates.
What's your opinion on the actions that can be taken, if any, to instil confidence back into the profession?
There should be a vocal condemnation by the profession and industry of the expectation that everything is available for everyone despite the lack of funding. Expose the ‘Big Lie’ and the fact that there is not enough money for the service the Government wants and the GDC expect from its professionals.
What do you think the Government's long-term aim for NHS dentistry is?
In essence, to deal with a smaller number of larger providers and drive its (the government’s) investment in dentistry down further whilst maintaining a façade that everything is all fine and available. I also think they want the vast majority of dentistry provided outside the NHS within 5-10 years, thus enabling it to cut the budget further.
How do you think these results contribute to the idea of creating a core service, if at all?
Core service is here already in some respects; the ‘massaging’ of the spirit of the contract by some practitioners and providers already means that many patients cannot get treatment that effectively should be available to them on the NHS. They have been privatised by the back door, but unfortunately they don’t necessarily realise they have.
This said, core service is too big a political hot potato as it flies in the face of the mantra that the NHS provides cradle to grave care for all.
What does the profession wish for its leadership to do in representing them to Government to bring about swift negotiated change for the better?
Get the Gloves off. Be very, very vocal to the national press and stop trying to wave the white paper of pacification like has been done before. No pussyfooting about this time because what is bad for dentists is going to be bad for patients, and THAT is the message that has to be got out there, not about money directly, but about the impossibility of providing what the government want for what the government will fund.
The new contract is likely going to be a pig whatever. And we all know, even if you spend money having your pig manicured, exfoliated and dress it up nice…..it’s still a pig.