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a blog by Chris Barrow

Lockdown Leadership - Part 3: Communicating with your self-employed clinicians

It's time to stop consuming the conversation and start creating the conversation

Two weeks ago it was almost impossible to imagine this conversation:

  • Salaried therapists or hygienists in private practice (the minority) and a very small number of salaried apprentice/associate dentists breathing a financial sigh of relief if they have been furloughed;

  • Self-employed therapists and hygienists in private practice (the majority) busy calculating whether they have profits below £50,000 (and adequate records to prove that) and seeking advice on how to claim under the Government's proposed financial help package for freelancers;

  • Self-employed associates in private practice dismayed that, with profits over £50,000 they have been thrown under the bus by the Government;

  • All of the above in mixed practice confused (as are their Principals) as to what can and can not be done financially to protect their financial position by making themselves available for partial redeployment to UDCs or into main-line NHS service, so as to maintain the integrity of their NHS contract and their income during lockdown;

  • Variation in policy throughout the 4 kingdoms (and even within kingdoms) (and between regulators) as to whether or not patients with designated emergencies can be seen in their existing practices, given the appropriate risk assessment and availability of the mythical PPE for dentists;

  • All of the above in NHS practice waiting for clarification on redeployment, continued care, personal income and future contract security;

  • The debate about entitlement to Dental Plan payments - who owns the money legally and where is the owner's moral compass on this?

If it weren't for the fact that people are losing their lives, it would be justifiable cause for a degree of outrage. Then again, I have sympathy for those at the BDA, who are tirelessly striving for clarification from NHSE, who so far have been excruciatingly slow to respond.

As an aside, as slow as the Government, whose enabling legislation for the furlough arrangements was promised last Tuesday but which has yet to appear.

The fact that officials in London and in Whitehall particularly are working from home like the rest of us and also dropping like flies with symptoms cannot help.

It is worth pointing out that #weareinthistogether equally references the fact that we are all flying blind; professional advisors, experts, consultants, practice owners - every single one of us trying to gain some clarity in the fog and make right decisions in the face of a daily financial reality.

So, today, what CAN a Principal do to communicate with their self-employed clinicians?

I remind you, yet again, that the decisions you make during this time will be remembered. Equally I point out to all concerned that it cuts both ways.

When a Principal joins the Government in abandoning associates to their fate, or changes the moral and financial goalposts - it will be remembered.

When a team form a posse and insist that an Owner does not put them forward for redeployment, even though this is essential to secure the associates income - it will be remembered.

When an individual starts to "stir it up" on Whatsapp - it will be remembered.

That type of disappointing scenario, whilst in evidence, represents a minority behaviour.

The good news is that my inbox and incoming calls are filled with stories of support and collaboration.

Principals and associates who are working together to provide emergency cover in their practices (whilst permitted) so that nursing staff can be safely furloughed.

Principals who are offering guaranteed monthly payments to associates until more clarity appears or until after lockdown.

Principals who have offered interest-free loans to associates from their own personal funds.

Actions that will be remembered.

At the risk of stating the obvious, during these initially uncertain times, both on the global and national stage and within the mico-community of dentistry, it is more important than ever that you stay in contact with your self-employed clinicians on a day to day basis.

To be frank, if I can stay connected with my clients and community every day through the Covid-19 Daily Briefings, through regular emails and Zoom calls with my clients, via our Covid-19 Business Confidence Forum (tonight, Thursday at 19:00) - then so can you in your own way.

Either invite them along to attend my events online, other transmissions from the many professional support organisations who are running webinars and helplines - or, for that matter, arrange the Zoom tea-breaks and catch ups that many teams are creating now.

As a Principal, all of your teams, whether furloughed, redeployed or in limbo, are a captive audience right now.

I remain hopeful that the legislators and regulators will provide clarity over the days ahead.

In the meantime, be remembered by your self-employed clinicians for your leadership, your sense of fair play, your generosity, your approachability and your appreciation of their situation.

Leaders eat last.

As part of The Extreme Business Regeneration Programme, we will be offering self-employed clinicians direct access to Team CB as a virtual helpline to answer any questions about their professional or personal challenges. We may not know all the answers but we will at worst point them in the right direction.

This morning we have 55 (up from 50 yesterday) dental practices who have joined the Regeneration Programme and who will be working with me and each other over the next three months.

Come and join us - a community who are going to stay ahead of the curve during lockdown and emerge ready for the new normal.

Details are HERE.

Tomorrow in Part 4, I'll consider how best to communicate with your referring GDPs.

Please share these posts and spread the confidence in these uncertain times.

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