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Written by MIAB’s Specialist Business Overheads Insurance Adviser.

Brexit is an ever-evolving enigma with an enormous amount of potential outcomes, impacts and possibilities for dental practices across the United Kingdom. A ‘No-Deal’ outcome in March 2019 could be devastating for the UK Dental Industry, with restrictions on automatic qualification recognition being a potential causal factor of mass European Economic Area (EEA) trained staff levels decreasing across the UK.

Short staffing is not a new issue; the BDA reported[i] in March 2018 that over 68% of NHS practices in England have reported recruitment troubles, alongside 58% of NHS dentists also considering leaving the service within the next five years. With this already being a significant issue, it begs the question of what state dentistry will be post-Brexit. Although there is a lot of uncertainty, some insight is offered into the potential future landscape.

Specialist Business Property Advisers, Christie & Co[ii], reported on the dental sector in October 2018 supporting these trends. Highlighting that ‘the overall impact of Brexit will be important for the dental sector where staffing is already a widespread challenge, thus will be on the radar particularly for the largest corporate operators who employ a higher percentage of non-UK trained dentists’.

We are all acutely aware of the strain that the NHS is under in respect of staffing in GP Practices and Hospitals due to cuts and the increased demand for services in an ageing population. This is no different in either NHS-led or private dental sectors. With the increased strain of uncertainty caused by Brexit looming, the problem is likely to increase unless concessions are agreed for EEA and non-EU trained dentists to continue practicing to the same extent in the UK after Brexit.

Christie and Co further commented that we must give recognition to ‘ensure dentists are appropriately recognised in any agreements made with the EU as part of Brexit.’ This is particularly important as if come March 2019 there is a No-Deal Brexit, restrictions[iii] will automatically be put in place for any new EEA trained staff looking to come and work in the UK. The automatic recognition of qualifications[iv] will be replaced by a new process such as an Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) designed to check and ensure that qualifications satisfy the requirements of the role they are applying for. The UK does not have to stop accepting EEA qualified staff, however due diligence dictates that checks will need to be carried out, increasing administration and potentially resulting in delays.

The report also highlighted that ‘historically, the EEA has been a key source of supply for the UK dental sector. However, over recent years, these figures appear to be falling and Brexit is likely to be a contributing factor to 380 EEA dentists leaving the register in 2017’. Though to provide some context, ‘the number of EEA dentists was actually falling prior to the announcement of Brexit’, suggesting that more needs to be done both pre and post Brexit to ensure retention of key workers in the industry.

Overall, the current figures indicate a period of relative stability. Although it’s worth noting that there have been minor reductions in the number of EEA dentists working in the UK Dental Industry, this could be a symptom of uncertainty surrounding the final Brexit deal. Therefore, the full consequences for EEA qualified dental staff are unknown.

Though should the terms of Brexit affect the free movement of people, introduce more stringent employment checks and conditions, or further exacerbate recruitment issues where we’re seeing “Locum usage account for 8% of total staff days[v], we may see an increase of EEA dentists practicing in their home countries.

Subsequently, there is no better time than now to review existing insurance portfolios within dental businesses across the UK, ensuring that should Brexit have a negative impact on recruitment or retention, businesses have a stringent plan in place to protect them from loss of revenue, profits, and general patient dissatisfaction.

One method is Business Overheads insurance. Whether you have a full roster, or find your practice suffering with understaffing, Business Overheads Insurance is designed to cover the costs relating to unplanned sickness and accidents. This means you don’t have to raid savings or pre-allocated funds to cover the costs of Locums, staff overtime or day-to-day overheads – avoiding a hit on your margins and freeing your budget for its intended purpose.

Expert advice

Whether you are a sole-trader, or a multi-partner venture, our policies are tailored to your individual business needs. Our experts are happy to answer any questions you may have, and can support you to enhance the protection you have against unforeseen absences. Contact Anmol on 01438 870733 or anmol.paul@miab.co.uk.

[i] BDA (2018), ‘NHS Dentistry facing recruitment crisis’, https://bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/nhs-dentistry-facing-recruitment-crisis

[ii] Christie & Co (2018), ‘The Dental Industry: staffing, Brexit and the Dentist Shortage’, https://www.christie.com/christieMediaLibraries/christie/PDFs-Publications/Dental/CCO-The-Dental-Industry-2018.pdf?ext=.pdf

[iii] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2018), ‘Providing services including those of a qualified professional if there’s a no Brexit deal’, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/providing-services-including-those-of-a-qualified-professional-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/providing-services-including-those-of-a-qualified-professional-if-theres-no-brexit-deal

[v] Christie & Co (2018), ‘The Dental Industry: staffing, Brexit and the Dentist Shortage’, https://www.christie.com/christieMediaLibraries/christie/PDFs-Publications/Dental/CCO-The-Dental-Industry-2018.pdf?ext=.pdf

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