The professional body is appealing to Hancock for support, meanwhile law firm Mishcon de Reya has made an advance with the group BI claim
Despite many dentist practices in England reopening yesterday, the British Dental Association (BDA) issued an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock calling for financial support to avoid a collapse in patient access.
It comes as dentists sought legal action after being denied business interruption insurance payouts, they were also unable to access government funding as dentists are self employed and earn above the threshold.
With social distancing policies remaining in place, and most practices reporting their ability to deal with a quarter of previous patient numbers, the BDA warned that there is no possibility of the service delivering anything more than a fraction of the 39.72m courses of treatment that were delivered by NHS in England in 2018/19.
The BDA said that it is now inevitable that patient access in England will fall below levels seen in access ‘hotspots’ such as West Yorkshire, Cornwall and Cumbria.
BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: “Today [8 June] high street dentistry was meant to start resuming across England. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Few practices have opened their doors, and those that did were operating at a fraction of their pre-pandemic capacity.”
Armstrong added: “The Health Secretary must now take responsibility to avert the existential crisis facing a service struggling with sky-high costs and radically reduced patient numbers.
“For years, communities from Cornwall to Cumbria struggled to get appointments but were ignored.
“Without action from this Government access problems – on an unprecedented scale - are going to be visited on millions of patients, in every part in England.”
The BDA has also demanded urgent action from government to provide clarity on key worker status which has seen dentists unable to access childcare, to integrate the service into official PPE supply chains, and for ongoing financial support, this includes the extension of business rates relief.
Dentist leaders have said the conversation must now begin on replacing a model for the service that has been rendered “irrelevant” in the face of lower patient numbers and higher costs.
Industry sources have estimated the PPE costs alone for certain courses of treatment have increased by up to 6000%.
Agreement in principle
Meanwhile Law firm, Mishcon de Reya LLP has received an ‘agreement in principle’ from a litigation funder to back its group business interruption claim against QBE for dental practices.
Dental practices with business interruption (BI) insurance policies underwritten by QBE will now be offered a viable collective route to litigation in circumstances where Covid-19 claims have been rejected by their insurer.
This advance comes on the back of similar group claims which it is currently advising on – Hiscox Action Group and hospitality sector claims against Aviva and QBE.
The law firm is working with specialist insurance counsel, Jeffrey Gruder QC of Essex Court Chambers who believes that claims under the QBE dental practice policies are ripe for challenge.
Sonia Campbell, partner and head of the insurance disputes practice at Mishcon de Reya LLP said: “The issue for dentists is similar in many ways to that experienced by the other businesses whom we also advise.
“Dental practice owners responsibly insured themselves against the risk of financial losses, including from notifiable diseases and yet, just like those in other trades, soon learned that their claims have been rejected.
“Practice owners provide an invaluable service to patients in their local communities. We hope by supporting dental practices we can help them restore their vital businesses to full health.”
The law firm has invited other dental practices to get in touch via email by 19 June should they wish to pursue a claim.