Scottish Dental Care Group to acquire two new practices

The Scottish Dental Care Group is set to acquire two new practices by October as part of its ambitious growth plans, after securing a £1.75 million funding package from Bank of Scotland.

Despite the recent pandemic forcing the temporary closure of each of its existing 11 practices, Scottish Dental Care Group acquired a new practice in the central belt during lockdown, with a further one in the final stages of completion. Its practices are currently located across Glasgow, Dumfries, Oban, Inverness, Bishopton and Cardonald.

The business sought support from Bank of Scotland to fund the new acquisitions as part of its wider growth plans to purchase a new practice each quarter throughout 2020 and 2021. The Group also has existing funding in place should any further changes be needed to ensure the practices comply with future government guidance in relation to Covid-19.

The planned acquisitions will bring an additional 23 members of staff to the Group, totalling 91 nursing and clerical staff, 44 dentists and hygienists. The new NHS and private practices will also welcome around 20,000 new patients, bringing the total number to almost 100,000 across Scotland.

Philip Friel, SDC Group’s clinical director, said: “We’ve been very specific in terms of our group structure and ambitions for growth. While no one foresaw the current global pandemic, that same robust structure and management regime stands us in good stead to progress with our growth plans across the country. This is only possible with the support of our extended teams who have demonstrated outstanding cohesion throughout. It’s an exciting time for us, and we hope to return to normal practice soon, and continue growing into 2021 and beyond.” 

Christopher Friel, director of SDC Group, added: “Last year we focused on consolidating our existing practices and processes, as well as refinancing the group with Bank of Scotland which meant that when Covid-19 hit, we were in a strong position. We use a single supplier for all of the practices, from using the same electricity provider to the same manufacturer of clinical materials, meaning that once we’ve acquired a new site, the logistics of bringing that practice into the group are very straightforward.  This process also allows us to focus our efforts on the needs of our new team members and patients.”

Mark Sim, relationship director at Bank of Scotland, also commented: “Parts of the healthcare sector, particularly pharmacies, have been extremely busy throughout the pandemic. However, it has been more damaging for dental practices that have been forced to close their doors to weather this challenging time. SDC Group is a great example of a business that already had strong foundations in place and now, with our support, is ready to continue normal operations quickly as soon as it is permitted. We will continue supporting the firm with its ambitious expansion plans over the next 24 months, and hopefully see SDC Group become one of the sector’s key players over the coming years.”

SDPO raises concerns over out-of-date PPE in Scotland

The Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group (SDPO) has raised serious concerns that NHS dental teams in Scotland have been issued face coverings that may not be “fit for use”. The organisation reported that when practices received their PPE to begin aerosol generating procedures from Monday 17th August, some discovered that the FFP3 masks they received were “significantly beyond their expiry dates, in some cases by almost a decade”.

The SDPO even claimed that, in some cases, the original expiry dates had been covered with a new date of expiry label. To top it off, those dates had also passed, with the most recent being in 2019.

The SPDO said: “Preliminary inquiries to the mask manufacturer 3M suggest that they do not consider masks beyond their expiry date to be fit for use. Practitioners have serious concerns about the safety of masks of this age. How can masks this old be passed as safe when the manufacturer suggests otherwise? SDPO members are practice owners and must consider patient and staff safety. We lack confidence that the masks issued to dental practice staff are fit for use, and we are very concerned that NHS dental teams across Scotland have been issued with masks that may compromise patient and staff safety.”

However, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government stated: “Revalidating stock and extending the shelf-life of masks is standard practice to maintain pandemic stock levels and this was used in relation to FFP3 respirator stocks as announced in March. Any PPE which has been issued to NHS boards for onward distribution to dental practices and may have passed its original expiry date has been re-tested to ensure it remains safe to use. Such testing has been approved and reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive and to standards relevant to the PPE being tested. Critically, this PPE – supplied free of charge by our NHS – enables dentists to carry out urgent and emergency care while ensuring the safety of patients, dentists and all dental staff. Each board has a proactive programme of fit-testing for FFP3 masks under way with each practice requiring a fit test for a dentist and dental nurse; this is a rolling programme of work, there are around 1000 dental practices in Scotland.”

BDA: additional financial support and clear communication needed for phased reopening of Scottish dental practices

The British Dental Association has said the Scottish Government now has a responsibility to manage patient expectations, following confirmation from the First Minister that dental practices were able to offer routine care using non-aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) from 13 July. 

Practices are still only provide a limited range of treatments and will not be carrying out routine examinations. The BDA has stressed the need for clear and consistent communication from the Scottish Government and NHS Boards.

Dentists’ costs have increased as practices began reopening last month. The Scottish Government has announced additional funding for the latest phase of reopening – a 30% increase in General Dental Practice Allowance. While this funding is welcome, it is insufficient to restore practice income to pre-Covid levels and could see some practices struggle to remain viable. The BDA has stressed the need for additional funding, given the financial pressures facing mixed NHS-private practices with a high percentage of private income.

The Scottish Government has also issued a revised Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR) for the next phase of reopening. The BDA welcomed the inclusion of triage activity in the SDR but has concerns about other aspects, such as the lack of funding for lab bills and the reduced level of care that GDPs are able to provide when routine examinations restart in phase 3. 

David McColl, Chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “The Scottish Government has a responsibility to manage patient expectations. Yes, we are moving to the next phase of reopening, but very little will change in terms of the treatments we can offer to our patients. Routine dentistry has not returned, and this fact needs to be clearly communicated. Dentists now face a vast backlog of dental treatment, and it will be some time before we return to anything resembling ‘business as usual’.

“Ministers now need to provide appropriate financial support to ensure the sustainability of NHS dentistry. We need the Government to engage more regularly and effectively with the profession and the public as we continue to navigate our way through these difficult times.”

Growing inequality between private practice and NHS dentists in Scotland?

NHS dentists in Scotland have expressed concerns over a growing inequality between patients able to afford treatment from private practices and those who rely upon NHS services in the country. NHS practices are not currently able to provide the full range of treatments, with the widespread belief being that this is because of the cost of PPE.

Now, according to The Scotsman, NHS dentists in Scotland have written to the government, asking why they are unable to provide the full service that their private practice counterparts, which have been able to afford fully fitted face masks, are. The Scottish government’s Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris, has told NHS dentists, however, that they will only be given standard PPE, ruling out dental treatments that involve drilling or use compressed air.

“There is a difference between dental provision in different places but the CDO has a very clear route map back to full dental care,” commented Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch. “Emergency dental care and drilling has been available on the NHS in 70 or so Urgent Care Centres throughout the country. Tom, the CDO, is working quickly to move to the next step of the route map which would allow aerosol generating procedures to be done in the thousands of practices. I wrote with Tom to the private dental practices and asked them very clearly to follow the same route map as the NHS dentists. We have slightly less control over what they do because of the nature of contracts, but it was clear advice to follow the same as the NHS. Care has been available and it’s coming back to full dental care.”

Members of the public are still apprehensive about returning to the dentist following the Coronavirus outbreak. One Scottish dentist has said that they have only been visited by a few patients each day, and that even then, it is only when the patient is “in complete agony, which is leading to extractions rather than just fillings”.

“Dentistry isn’t putting anyone at risk, they’re well trained at infection prevention and control and I know they’ll all have adequate PPE so I don’t think patients are at risk,” asserted Leitch. “Tom is very keen to get NHS practices back as soon as we can with the full gamut of care. We’re making choices for a broad range of dentists across the nation.”

Yet, Dr Mohammed Samad, Chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group, claims that Scottish dentists are receiving conflicting advice from the government and individual health boards. “Why can NHS hubs be provided with adequate PPE to do AGPs but AGPs cannot be completed in general practice under the NHS? Is there a belief that dentists in practice are not as skilled or trained as those in hubs or is it the PPE supply?” he asked.

The Scottish government, meanwhile, has said: “There is no two-tiered system of dental health care in Scotland. NHS patients are able to receive care and treatment including aerosol-generating procedures through one of the 71 urgent dental care centres in Scotland. As part of phase three the Chief Dental Officer has commissioned an expert review of aerosol-generating procedures and will be writing to the profession shortly on how they might be introduced safely.”

Dental Group know the drill when it comes to nailing a performance

Dentists, nurses, hygienists and administrative staff were amongst the singers, musicians and performers who made a success of a lockdown concert for staff with Scotland’s fastest growing dental group.

More than 150 Clyde Munro employees and suppliers took part in an online two-hour gig to connect with colleagues across Scotland and have some fun in a concert billed as ‘The Lockdown’.

Bosses with Clyde Munro have been looking at creative ways to keep up the morale of their 500-strong team, made up of dentists, practice and support centre staff, who are either working from home or furloughed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The brains behind the operation was Clyde Munro founder, Jim Hall, who launched the business in 2015 with the acquisition of seven practices. He said: “The Lockdown concert was a great success and all of the acts were a big hit amongst their colleagues.

“Everyone was blown away by the talent of the performers, we couldn’t quite believe how many musically talented people we had hiding in our practices across the country.”

Entrepreneur Jim said the concert was conceived to bring the Clyde Munro team together in a virtual setting and to lift spirits while helping the team to enjoy an evening of music and singing with everyone participating via Zoom video call.

He added: “We wanted to help take minds off all the worrying stuff that is going on in the world even for a few hours – and judging by the positive feedback, we definitely achieved that.”

At the start of April, as the full extent of the lockdown started to sink in, Jim knew that keeping in touch with staff and maintaining a high morale would be essential to ensuring the business comes through the virus crisis in the best possible shape.

So he tasked his team to come up with fun events to keep staff connected, starting with an Easter Bonnet competition and culminating with the ambitious Lockdown concert on Friday 24 April. Participants even took part in meticulous rehearsals ahead of the big night.

Jim added: “The team really got into the spirit and many even dressed up as if they were going to a summer music festival which was great as it meant even those who were not performing, still got involved and contributing to the atmosphere. It was a fun night that people will remember for a long time.”

Clyde Munro comprises 40 practices across Scotland, with more than 200 dentists, 350 staff and 300,000 patients.

The group’s ambition is to become Scotland’s “local dentist”, operating an expanding network of family dentists across Scotland, with each devoted to providing the best dental care, while reflecting the needs and character of its community.