Many dentists feel they have been let down during the coronavirus crisis. Professional bodies were slow to speak up, delivering an ineffectual message to members when they finally did so.
The profession has not benefited from the government’s package of financial support for small businesses and insurers have proved that policies aren’t always worth the PDFs they’re written on.
This week, we meet Laith Abbas and Luke Thorley – two relative youngsters who are fighting back.
They reveal why they are leading a legal action against insurers and discuss how the crisis has been a catalyst for grassroots action with the formation of a new professional body representing private practices.
“[Coronavirus] is going to completely flip the whole landscape of dentistry. I don’t think people quite realise that yet, because our attention at the moment is getting back to work. I can guarantee you, a year today, we are going to look back and think, “I can’t believe how much has changed.” – Laith Abbas
Watch the video of the interview here:
In this Episode
01.25 – Business interruption legal action
21.22 – The British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD)
28.57 – COVID safety and returning to work
39.34 – On regulators
52.14 – BAPD vision for NHS treatment
About Laith Abbas and Luke Thorley
Laith Abbas is principal dentist and co-owner of Crouch Hall Dental Care. Luke Thorley is practice principal at Royal Wharf Dental in london.
The pair have been consistently outspoken about dental insurers’ response to the coronavirus crisis. They are leading a legal action against insurers which could involve more than 2000 UK dentists.
Connect with Prav and Payman:
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Payman: Week nine, and some patients have been struggling with unbearable toothache now for two months of lockdown. A whole profession and a whole industry is waiting on the chief dental officer to speak about what we’re going to do regarding the unlock. Meanwhile, we’ve got the BAPD, who’ve done a survey of their members, and there’s a 97% of the group are saying they’ve got no confidence in the office of the CDO. We’ve got with us Luke Thorley, who’s one of the founding members of the BAPD. Hi, Luke.
Luke Thorley: Hi, guys, how’s it going?
Payman: And at the same time, we’ve got practises struggling, particularly private practises, while NHS practises seem to be paid quite well in this downtime. But private practises struggling with getting their insurance paid, their business interruption insurance paid. A group of them have come together, led by another young man in the industry, Laith Abbas. Hi, Laith.
Laith Abbas: Hey, Payman, how’s it’s going? Hey, Prav. Luke.
Payman: Good. Thanks for taking the time. I know both of you are really busy, so let’s just get right to it. Laith, how did it start regarding this insurance claim thing, and where are you at?
Laith Abbas: I’ve got two, three practises of my own, and they are private and one of them is predominantly private. Only a small contract, about 5% NHS. It was a position where one day after another, I remember talking to my brother. Every time we had one of those daily updates from the government, it felt like an episode of EastEnders. Because every day it was like, good news for others and bad news for us. It always felt like a cliffhanger. We always felt like there was news … And we knew that actually, it wasn’t relevant to us.
Laith Abbas: As the news sorted out, the business rate holidays, the business rate release, all of these grants. They weren’t relevant to us, and they weren’t relevant to a lot of private practises. Especially when the news of the NHS funding coming in … Which is great for them, really good. I don’t think anyone begrudges them the NHS funding. That’s great, and we hope that continues. But we felt like private practises were really being left behind. There wasn’t any help, and I looked into my policy. And in my policy, so I’m with QBE in one of my practises. It was quite clear, reading the business interruption, that I felt that I should have cover.
Laith Abbas: I started speaking to a few of my friends, including Luke as well, who may consider me a friend, I’m not sure. We started thinking about actually, there’s a lot of people not making claims, yeah? When we asked why, a lot of the insurance companies, as a default response would say, “COVID-19 is not covered.” There wasn’t any reason why it was not covered. Having a reason of COVID-19 didn’t exist is not a reason to say no. So we started a movement with a guy I never met, ever. Never met him before, a guy called Manny. The only simple thing between us is the fact that we’re both dentists, we both own practises. We’ve decided to really start to inform people, and we started digging and doing a lot of research.
Laith Abbas: Through that pressure, the endgame is starting to be achieved. People, about 30% of practises, or 25%, 30% of practises are with Axa Towergate. And Axa Towergate started accepting liabilities and making interim payments. Other policies like Allianz started making payments. Covéa started making payments. There’s still some policies that we’re trying to fight hard into accepting liabilities. Look, we can’t … I was saying to Payman yesterday. We can’t do miracles. If you’re not covered, you’re not covered. But what we’re trying to do is, if you are covered, or the wording is ambiguous, we need to really research that clause and find out, is there cover, and is it going to help our private dentists? Because if you’re NHS practise, you won’t get payments, because obviously you’re still getting income. But if you’re entitled to that payment, you should get that payment. So that’s what we’ve been fighting, and really for the profession rather than just myself.
Laith Abbas: Of course. Because I want to get my payment as well.
Prav: Laith, can I ask you a question about that? Is, what is it in your contract that you saw that made you realise, look, it’s so clear in my mind when I’m reading this that I am covered? And when you’ve read or looked at other people’s contracts, and it’s so clear that you’re not covered. Because I’m sure there’s a lot of people reading this thinking, “Am I? Am I not? What am I going to do?” What was it?
Prav: Then, do you have an idea of what it looks like in terms of the payment structure, what a practise can expect? Is it related to your previous performance? Or is it related to a sum that’s assured, a fixed figure that’s in the policy?
Laith Abbas: There’s a clause … There’s a few clauses, so there’s a few that are different. The biggest one that stood out for us from day one, and we were very confident they should get paid, are one that says, “Any business interruption or interference caused by an infectious disease, apart from any age-related disease, within the premises or within 25 mile radius of that premises.” That’s it. Nothing else to that, yeah? It didn’t specify diseases. It didn’t specify that you had to have a staff member. It didn’t specify you have to have anyone in the surgery. It specifies within a 25 mile radius. So if you’re a practise in any city, that’s a guarantee that you’ve got someone within a 25 mile radius.
Laith Abbas: And premises were being closed. We got … Look, I mean, there’s a lot of grey areas sort of going through now. But we were told to close, okay, because of the virus and what risks we can pose to ourselves and others. It wasn’t any extraordinary sort of response. It was a direct response to the fact that we had to close up when we can risk spreading infection.
Laith Abbas: That’s one policy. The other policies also state, for example, Allianz. Some policy of Allianz would say, “any closure of a premises by the government or public authority.” Again, that was black and white. There’s a few like that. Where it’s a bit more grey are things like when it mentions damages to the premises, because we’ve got to define what damage means, and also sanitary. So we’ve got to define also what sanitary risk is as well, because it can be argued that a virus is a sanitary risk.
Laith Abbas: There’s a few things that we can clarify. That’s the reason why from day one, I decided we’re going to get some top barristers involved, and that’s also one of the reasons why the BDA have got involved. Because of the fact that we need to support the profession by getting these policies assessed.
Payman: Laith, but the BDA is paying for your legal challenge, is that right?
Laith Abbas: Yeah. Yeah. Every single practise. Yeah, so anyone who’s got any policy.
Payman: Whether they’re BDA members or not?
Laith Abbas: Even you’re a BDA member or not, yeah. It doesn’t matter what it is. And this includes … Some people got some really random insurance companies. Some people have got insurances companies by Farmer’s Union. Northern Farmer Union. Really random, random dentist’s insurance. But even if you’ve got a farmer’s insurance, you’re still going to be looked at.
Payman: You’ve got this interesting question about, there’s some policies that were sold to dentists through the BDA that aren’t paying.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. Yeah.
Payman: Is that correct? The Lloyd and Whyte one.
Laith Abbas: Yes, and Lloyd and Whyte are the recommended insurance broker. So they’re a broker, recommended by the BDA. It’s a really grey area because obviously, I can only be thankful to the BDA that have supported our case. But at the same time, questions have to be asked, and they will be asked, and they’ve been asked by the profession in terms of, is there a conflict of interest against the Lloyd and Whyte and the BDA doing their investigations? The only thing I can say to reassure people is that that’s the reason why they took me onto their steering panel with the guy called Manny that I talked about earlier.
Laith Abbas: The whole point there is that I’ve got no interest in the BDA. I’m not part of the BDA. I’ve got no interest in covering for the BDA. That’s why they’ve got me involved. So then when I’m looking at Lloyd and Whyte policies, if I think Lloyd and Whyte have got something to answer to, I will come out and say that. To be fair to the BDA, they’ve instructed Ravi Nayer of Rudnick Brown, one of the top law firms, to look at every policy. They haven’t said, “Look at Lloyd and Whyte and try to see how we can justify them not paying out.” Absolutely not. They’ve told him to look at Lloyd and Whyte, and see if there’s any gaps in their policy.
Prav: Just from my perspective, how does this all work? The BDA had a recommended broker. That recommended broker advised on what policies you dental practises should take out. Is there some kind of financial arrangement between the insurance company and the BDA, or the broker and BDA?
Laith Abbas: I don’t know.
Prav: If somebody has been ill advised, let’s say my dental practise has been ill advised on taking out the wrong policy, for example. Then who … First of all, is anyone responsible? Because nobody could have predicted what had happened, and had this not happened, we’d just be sitting tightly and cracking on with running our practises. Do you think somebody has got something to answer for, and who is that?
Laith Abbas: I do. Yeah, I do, and the lawyers think that we may have a case against them as well. Not specifically Rudnick Brown, but we’ve spoken to lawyers that have said, “Look, actually, there is a liability claim against these brokers.” Because a lot of dentists, and you know what … I can’t believe, now thinking back, that business interruption insurance was just a tick box to me. Yeah? I can’t believe, looking back at something so important. We never knew it was going to happen, look, yeah. I mean, pandemics don’t come around … They come around every 50 years or 60 years.
Laith Abbas: But other things, like fire claims, et cetera. I’ve never checked these details properly before. Some of these claims, even for fire claims by the way, even the biggest claims which actually could happen, have a clause in there which says they will give a maximum of 25 grand. If you’ve got a million pound turnover practise and you get a payout of 25 grand, what’s the point? There’s a lot of insurance policies that really actually need to be looked at properly. Brokers are a serious consideration, because a lot of brokers are operating by, here’s a quotation, here’s the cheapest. What happens? Dentists go and purchase it because they think, “Oh, great, this one’s 900 pound compared to 1500.” But actually it covers eff all, right?
Laith Abbas: We need to really have a look at that, and completely change it. Yeah, I think that’s something to look at in the future. In terms of making claims against the broker, I think that’s something we’re going to have to look at. Because I mentioned, some people have got office policies, and office policies don’t even cover things like compressors. You’ve got compressed air going into your property, and it doesn’t cover anything against compressed air accidents, and that’s pretty dangerous.
Payman: Prav, I joined one of Laith’s WhatsApp groups, specifically the Lloyd and Whyte one. Your question of mis-selling, there’s people on there who’ve been advised that one policy is better than the other, more expensive than the other, and that policy hasn’t paid, but the other one has paid. You know, it’s a-
Laith Abbas: Another story, there’s a dentist that contacted me. He was with Axa Towergate, and Axa Towergate, remember, they’ve accepted liability. So they’re making payments, they’re making interim payments, yeah? There’s some dentists honestly out there getting 200 grand payouts. Which, by the way, is going to save their business, yeah?
Laith Abbas: But there’s a dentist that was with Axa Towergate who was contacted by a broker who left Axa Towergate two days before lockdown, and switched to Lloyd and Whyte.
Payman: Yeah. I heard about that.
Laith Abbas: Now, where he would have got maybe a 200 grand payout, he’s now got nothing. Yeah? From a two-day sort of mistake. It’s a big thing, yeah. This is what we’re trying to sort out.
Payman: You said that some policies were … It’s the same wording.
Laith Abbas: Same wording, yeah.
Payman: And one paid and one didn’t.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. QBE, exactly the same wording as Axa Towergate. There is not a word difference in Axa Towergate and QBE. I tell a lie, there’s one word, one saying ‘because’ and one saying something else. It’s the same message, one word difference, but it doesn’t mean any different. And QBE have refused to make a payout. Axa Towergate have. Now, whether that’s a commercial decision or a legal decision, we don’t know yet. That’s one of the reasons why the FCA are going to have a look at this. The FCA, by the way, are very interested in insurance companies like QBE. Because when one makes a payment and the other one doesn’t, for me, that’s avoidance.
Laith Abbas: Like I was saying yesterday, my concern … And I don’t want to say they’re planning this, because I don’t want to get a legal case against me by a top insurance firm. But my concern is, if you look at the policies, the policies state that if a company becomes insolvent, they are not due to make any payments. When you think about 20 to 30% of practises are going to become bust, well, that means 30% of savings for the insurance companies, if they have a claim that’s valid.
Payman: You know, but also the insurance companies themselves are looking at going bust, yeah? Because this is a massive event for them. We know, of course, other industries they haven’t paid, or some haven’t paid as well.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. Yeah yeah, yeah.
Payman: A complicated situation. Luke, did you have practise insurance? Business interruption insurance?
Luke Thorley: Yeah. Mine was with Covéa. I sent them an email, and they said they would respond within seven days, and that was maybe three weeks ago. I still have no update. I’m going to see what the fallout is from Laith’s situation. I think I fell a little foul to the situation, where I have an office policy, and not a surgery one. This was obviously not explained to me. The broker who I purchased the policy from obviously knew I was buying it for a dental practise, and clearly, for me, it’s no different to the way we consent patients, mis-selling of information. It’s very easy to walk someone down the garden path if it’s not the right way. At some stage someone has to say, well, who’s right and who’s wrong, and where is the legal ground, and who takes responsibility for that?
Laith Abbas: Here’s another scary point as well, which actually we believe about 30% of the practises are affected by. If you’re a limited company, and you don’t write your company name in the correct way. For example, Laith Abbas Limited, but I put down instead Woodbury Practise. You’re not going to get a payout, because you’ve got the wrong entity ensured.
Payman: That’s great.
Laith Abbas: Who does that go back down to? That goes back down to the broker again. Yeah.
Prav: My interpretation of that is this. When we speak to a patient, and we say, “I’m going to stick an implant in your mouth,” we take them through all sorts of consent, so they really understand what all the risks are. They understand the risk of failure. They understand the risk of infection. They understand the success-failure rates. The ins and outs of that I don’t get. But as practitioners, you guys have a duty of care to explain to your patients in the most idiot-proof language that they truly understand all the risks, and they sign a consent form. Am I right?
Laith Abbas: Yes, Prav.
Prav: Are there any standards like that, that apply in insurance?
Laith Abbas: You know what, it’s all there, isn’t it? It’s written down, but it’s down to the dentist to actually read it. But I think you’re spot on, it’s the same sort of way. We can also put it down on paper for a patient to sign, but the dentist is still expected to explain it back to the patient, right?
Laith Abbas: Look, when this is over, because it’s not a case of … I’m not going to just trying to get people paid out or get clarity. I’m going to try to get people to understand these type of policies. Not only limited to insurance. Look at different contracts we take out on a day to day basis, and these are contracts that are worth a lot. Our overheads, we spend a lot of money on various contracts, on upkeep and maintenance. Actually, if you go to any dentist, if I ask Luke right now what his service contracts includes, he wouldn’t have a clue. He wouldn’t have a clue, yeah?
Laith Abbas: I’m not just picking on Luke, because I know what he’s like. But I’m saying any dentist would find it difficult. Yeah, I think there needs to be a reform. There needs to be something in the middle, and that’s supposed to be a broker. That should be explaining the ins and outs of what you’re covered for and what you’re not covered for.
Luke Thorley: I actually do know what my service contract is, because I got sent it yesterday by the management company of the unit that I lease.
Laith Abbas: Maybe I’m different. Maybe I’m different, okay. A lot of people don’t. Look, yeah, I think you’re right, Prav. I think that needs to be reformed, and there will be … After this is over, that’s probably my next thing. Again, it’s not a benefit for me. It’s because actually, I’m learning a lot. I’m the personality that I want to learn about … I don’t like to just get told something. I like to research it and understand it, so I can understand ways around things, and how my business can change in the future.
Payman: Laith, there is a difference between doing a treatment on a patient and selling something to a business. One’s kind of a B2C thing, one’s a B2B thing. When I talked to the insurance guy, he said for something like this for instance, you definitely wouldn’t bother with the ombudsman. Whereas if you were just an individual who bought an insurance product, he definitely said you would go to the ombudsman. I guess as a business, you’ve got slightly more to look out for.
Payman: But you’re right. Who’s reading all this stuff?
Laith Abbas: I mean, look. What we know for sure is that this is just the beginning.
Laith Abbas: What we’ve started is definitely just beginning, and it’s going to grow. We’re going to join up with other professions I think at some point, because it’s going to go … We actually have got a hearing, a court case in July. At the moment, the whole point of what we’re doing right now is we are representing to the FCA. Actually, by 2:00 PM today, we will have made presentations to the FCA. We will make our representations at the court case.
Laith Abbas: Look, let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens, but it’s going to be a difficult thing. What I would say to dentists is, don’t rely on this. I’m not trying to be someone’s saviour, Manny’s not trying to be a saviour. We’re not promising that we’re going to be successful. We’ve been successful in some cases. It’s not to give people false hope. I don’t want people to think that this is going to save their business. This is trying to achieve, if we can, we can achieve something, we’ll achieve it together. But it’s going to take a long time.
Laith Abbas: If it goes to the Supreme Court, by the way, it could take up to four years.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. This is not something to rely on. You need to go previous there, get your loans if you need to get your loans. Try to think about how your future business plans are going to change. Think about your cost-saving exercises. Increase your prices if you need to, whilst you’re gaining back your traction, whilst you’re starting your business up again. Everything but your marketing. But this is not something to rely on. This is going to be a bonus if anything.
Payman: Laith, if someone has an insurance policy that they’re not sure whether it covers them or not, what do they do next? Are you guys giving some sort of … How do they contact you, how do they get onto the WhatsApp?
Laith Abbas: I am 99% sure that we’ve got every policy from every dentist pretty much now.
Payman: Oh, really?
Laith Abbas: If you haven’t sent your policy, it’s highly likely that another policy’s been sent it.
Laith Abbas: We’ve had too many dental practises, and we’ve seen so many random ones. There’s probably about 19 policies altogether, okay, spread across all the dentists. Of those, five of them make up 95%. If there’s a policy that’s missing, then yeah. When we get down to further down the line, you can always contact me, and then I’ll put it forward to the barrister at the BDA. Because what the BDA have made clear is that no single dentists have been left out. If you’ve got a policy from DigiDuty, yeah, you still send it to me.
Payman: Yeah. Well, it’s very impressive, man. I don’t know how busy you were before all of this.
Laith Abbas: Yeah.
Payman: Well, good on you. Are we going to be seeing a Laith Insurance Brokers on top of design and build soon?
Laith Abbas: No thank you. I don’t want a pandemic, and then people just say, “Laith’s a bastard,” right? There’s no way that I’m going to do that.
Payman: All right, then. Let’s get on to you, Luke. What can you tell us about the latest with the BAPD? I mean, we saw it go from being an organisation of rebels to now, at the highest level talking to the government. Where are we at? We’re all waiting for the CDO. But what can you tell us?
Luke Thorley: Well I mean, I know as much as everyone else, because everything that the CDO puts out is public. At the moment, there is no official word on when we can expect to see a return to routine dentistry. There’s a lot of groups, a lot of people, and a lot of individual practises developing their own guidelines, that they feel are enough and adequate for them to provide care to their own patients. But we cannot and we will not as a group put out an SOP or a guideline that we’re just going to give to everyone and say, “Right, you’re okay to use this.” Because it would put us in a very difficult position if someone had a problem. Very much like the insurance companies, you know.
Luke Thorley: And like Laith says, I cannot promise dentists that we’re going to be the reason, where we kickstart that routine dentistry. But what we can do is we can voice people’s concerns, collectively, to the powers that be to ask them to make the changes that we feel need to be implemented in order to allow us to reopen.
Payman: If you look in the sort of broader political area, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention the last couple of days. The politicians are blaming the scientists for the mistakes that happened. You know they’ve been saying, up to now they’ve been saying we’re following the science. Now they’re saying, “Well, why did so many people die in Britain?” And the whole care homes disaster. The politicians are saying, “Well, that’s what the scientists told us.” Is Sara Hurley and her office the scientist in this situation? Do you reckon that she’s going to take the hit from government, as sort of the fall guy for the disaster that’s happened in dentistry?
Luke Thorley: I mean, I’m not sure if that’s going to be the case. One thing I will say is that in the webinar, the first webinar. Sara said that she was receiving advice from NHS England, and SAGE. We have questioned as a group, we have a liaison committee and we liaise with the BDA and the ADG, amongst others, to try and find out what is going on. Whilst we’ve asked for a seat at the table with the CDO via the BDA and the ADG, who both at the time said it might not be possible, they did offer to put forward questions on our behalf. Both the BDA … We delivered a statement to the BDA, which we were advised would be sent to the CDO. Which we didn’t receive a formal reply from.
Luke Thorley: Then later, we asked questions of the ADG, in one of our meetings, to put forward two questions about where the science is coming from, about why dental practises are not allowed to reopen, and/or why there’s not a dentist involved in the mix at SAGE.
Payman: When you guys did this survey, this … The one about the CDO’s office, about the confidence in the office. When 97% of dentists or professionals say they haven’t got confidence in that office, are you translating that as what, as in the office itself is a waste of time? Or the current administration in the office hasn’t got our support?
Luke Thorley: I don’t think it’s a waste of time. The issue is, is that we want some action, and we want some clarity. Which I personally feel there hasn’t been a level of clarity for my patients, that are asking me what is going on, and I can’t give them a solid answer to what or when we may return, or to my staff. When we’ll return, what a return is going to look like, are they safe to go back to work, what sort of level of work we’re going to be doing. Our concern is that the office of the CDO are the ones that are getting the information from NHS England and SAGE. But we’re not receiving a daily or weekly updated situation on a timeline of when we’re going to get out of this, or how we’re going to get out of this, and what the future for practises looks like.
Luke Thorley: It’s been made very clear that NHS practises, they’re going to continue to receive funding, which is fine. But most NHS practises have a private sector, and they employ nurses based on the private revenue. At the moment, there’s nothing in the remit to suggest that there’s any protection for private practitioners, or associates, dentists, nurses, the businesses, the corporates, the trade, the lab technicians, you name it. There’s no protection in place. If we cannot get back to work, what is going to happen to the whole profession?
Luke Thorley: For a healthcare sector that is so heavily dependent on the private sector, it’s been clear that as a group, the private market is not well represented in a way that when something like this has happened, there’s been nothing in place to stop private practises go by the wayside.
Prav: There’s a lot of confusion out there, and I know the answer, and I know it’s very clear in terms of what are we waiting for? Because some practises I’m speaking to think they’re waiting for a nod from the GDC, from the CQC, et cetera, et cetera. Am I right in assuming there’s only one piece of information we’re waiting for before we can open up the doors to our practise?
Luke Thorley: I think when you look at the profession, the head of the profession is clearly the CDO. In her first webinar, she said, “You need to cease all routine dentistry.” Now, I don’t provide anything other than routine dentistry, so for me that’s close the doors, and we’ll let you know when it’s safe to reopen. Okay, no problem. But the information that’s been coming out has not been, in my opinion, has not been enough to enable the confidence in the profession from the public, for them to feel safe. That actually it’s okay to go back to dental practise, and the staff, and the whole entire workforce. There’s just so much ambiguity, and we need some answers really of where this is going.
Payman: What’s your opinion, Luke? What’s your opinion on the safety aspect? I mean, leave aside what you’re being spoon fed. As a professional yourself. Let’s say that she said, go ahead. You’ve still got to risk your life and your patient’s life and your nurse’s life. What’s your opinion on what needs to happen to go back to work?
Luke Thorley: I’ve been very clear from the start that actually, I don’t know … This disease, we’ve known about it since December. I’ve treated patients in that time, from December to March, that have been all over the place. I work in a practise in London, and a lot of the people that I treat are very well paid professionals, and they travel country-wide. Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan. You name it, they’re travelling all over the place. Whilst we put in some … We said you can’t come if you’ve travelled from some countries, we’re not to know that the patients haven’t told us where they’ve travelled to and from. There was no way of stopping this from happening.
Luke Thorley: In that time period, of those four months, no member of my team has been unwell. No days have been taken off. My wife hasn’t had any illness, my son who is two years old hasn’t had any illness, and I haven’t personally … I know there’s been some dentists in the profession that got COVID, but I don’t know if that could be traced to a dental practise. I think that was traced to a holiday resort where there was a large scale outbreak. I have to question, is the PPE that we already had in place before COVID-19 happened, was that adequate?
Luke Thorley: I mean, Laith, you must feel a similar situation. That actually, none of your team have come down with this.
Laith Abbas: The way I look at it … I look at different countries, right? I look at Germany. I look at Sweden, Sweden never stopped. Norway never stopped. I look at even Italy and Spain now are starting to resume dentistry. I’m looking at Australia, which has resumed dentistry. Hong Kong, et cetera, right? For some reason, in this country, we don’t tend to look at other countries so much. We tend to think that we’re a complete different science, it doesn’t make sense, right?
Laith Abbas: I think we need to take a leaf from other people’s books, and really try to think about what we can do to prevent the risk, or try to reduce the risk. Dentistry is full of risks. We are a profession which has a risk. As soon as you see a patient, there’s the risk of transmission of a number of diseases. That’s something we’re used to. But also, cross-infection in dentistry should be amongst the best. There’s not many professions that carry out cross-infection like we do. I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but when you go to a GP … And they’re doing all sorts of minor procedures, et cetera. They haven’t got half the cross-infection facilities that we do, not even close.
Laith Abbas: For me, I think we need to make sure we’ve got agreed SOPs. And yeah, we should start resuming dentistry. Whether it’s routine dentistry completely, I’m not so sure about. I’m undecided. But that goes back to again, the CDO. The reason that people are voting no confidence CDO is because I think there’s a lack of communication. That’s the only reason that we are actually against the CDO’s attitude, is that she doesn’t believe … Or maybe they don’t have time, maybe they’re doing their own thing. But there’s a lack of communication. The communication that’s going through is very watered down, it’s wishy-washy, and it’s infrequent, okay. That’s the issue.
Payman: Yeah. I mean, I think her tone didn’t help, that headmistress tone didn’t help.
Laith Abbas: Yeah.
Payman: But at the same time-
Laith Abbas: I mean, what I say, because I know the CDO is probably watching this. Luke has got to be really careful what he says, because he’s a representative of BAPD. I don’t have to be careful as much, because I’m maybe a little bit more loose in what I can say. But I don’t think she’s representing everyone, and that’s not the aim of the CDO. I think the CDO hasn’t done a fantastic job, okay. There may be reasons why, but if she came and communicated the reasons why there’s been infrequent contact, et cetera, I think people might accept that.
Payman: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I’m going to-
Luke Thorley: I agree. If at the start, someone would have come out and said, “Please give us some time to get this right. We know that you’re concerned, please understand we’re working tirelessly behind the scenes, but we’ve got your back and we’ll update you as soon as we can,” in the same way that the chief medical officer came out. I think the response would have been very different. But I think a lot of people felt very, almost attacked in the first webinar. I think that the difference between the first and second webinars, and the attitude and the sort of tone, it was chalk and cheese. I think someone must have played it back to the office of the CDO, or said something like, “You need to ease off the gas a little bit, go easy on the profession.”
Luke Thorley: Because we were looking for leadership, and guidance, and in the first webinar I didn’t feel like we got it. I mean, I think that it’s a very difficult job that she has. She’s in a position where if she says, “Right, you’re okay to go back to work,” and then something happens, she is then liable if something happens to a patient or a member of staff or a dentist. That is a very difficult position to be in, and I fully accept that that is her position. It’s one that, whilst it’s a grey area to give a firm answer on to dentists, patients, and staff, we still need some clarity and some guidance of a pathway of where this is going.
Luke Thorley: Because we had one webinar, I think it was towards the end of March. The second one was two weeks later, and since then there’s been very very limited information that’s coming out. You’ve got dentists guessing about what PPE to buy. You’ve got people setting up PPE companies without any clear guidelines. It’s just … For me, it’s becoming a little bit farcical, because at what point is someone going to say enough is enough, we need a decision to be made about how we’re going to take this forward? The BAPD have battered on the door of the BDA. They’ve been very welcoming, and working together with them, we’ve worked together with the ADG.
Luke Thorley: What options are left? We’ve approached the office of the CDO without a reply, and I sort of made … Something like I said to my wife before is, “If you’re wearing a hearing aid and you turn it off, you can’t hear what’s going on.” That’s just to me what is happening. They just want to turn it on and off when they want to hear what they want to hear, and when they don’t want to hear it, they just flick it off and go, “We’ve got other stuff to do.” I understand she came out and said that she may have been redeployed. I just think if that’s what the government thinks of the profession, that the leader of our profession can be redeployed. I mean, what does that say about NHS dentistry?
Payman: We’re small, basically, we’re small. We are small. Dentistry is tiny.
Laith Abbas: Yeah, we are small-
Luke Thorley: It is small, but you can’t allow a medical condition where something can cause so much pain to a patient to just be let go by the wayside. I mean, we’ve got people taking their own teeth out, and people begging dentists to show them how to do this, and lend them instruments to do that I mean, you know,
Payman: Luke, would you say, would you say-
Luke Thorley: People are buying stuff off Amazon, you know. There’ll be dental kits on Amazon, and … I don’t understand.
Payman: Yeah. What would you say to, let’s say a group of dentists. Let’s say the 600, whatever it was, that group, just for the sake of the argument. Yeah? If they said, “Listen, we’re going to follow Germany or France or Ireland SOP and we’re opening, and we have our own professionalism. We can see what’s going on. Our patients are in severe pain, some in A&E, and so on. We’re going to open en masse.” What would you say to that?
Luke Thorley: I mean, it’s their position to do so. They’re well within their rights to do so. My indemnity have confirmed that they will cover me should I need to see a patient, and it’s my duty of care to the patient. I think that it’s a little bit premature, and I think now at this stage, where the cases of coronavirus are going down quite dramatically, I think that actually another one or two weeks isn’t going to make a huge difference, to wait until we do have some clear guidelines. Because it cannot go on another month like this. Because you’re right, people are just saying, “Enough is enough, we’re going to open. Whether you create SOPs or not, we are opening our doors.”
Luke Thorley: There’s different dates being bandied around. The first of June, the end of June, the first of July. People are setting where they’re sort of saying enough is enough for them, and enough is enough for their patients. It puts them in a very very difficult position, but they also have a duty of care to their patients. It’s not the right positions for dentists to be put in. We should have had these questions answered.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. If you look at the situation at the moment, it’s actually crazy, right? We don’t know whether it’s legal or illegal to see our patients. That is an absolutely absurd position to be in, right? You cannot have a position where you do not know, some people are saying it is, some people are saying … It is absolutely crazy, and it wouldn’t take a lot for there to be a full and proper statement. Yes, you can see your patients if you follow guidance, and this is what you’ve got to follow, or no you must not see, and if you see them we will shut you down.
Laith Abbas: But everything’s been so wishy-washy. The CQC statement changed last night. The CQC statement last night became, “We cannot enforce closure.” What? What is that about? Can we see patients or not?
Payman: Well you know, you guys are young, yeah? You’re used to … You grew up in this era of being scared of the GDC continuously. But for me, it’s a shame. It’s a shame that we all have to just … I don’t practise anymore, but if I was a practising dentist, I’d look to my own professionalism, you know? I don’t really need the Chief Dental Officer to tell me what’s safe and what’s not. Especially as Luke’s point, she’s not telling us what science she’s looking at. Of course, it’s easier to say when you haven’t got that problem.
Laith Abbas: We don’t know who is regulating us. I can’t remember who put a post up the other day. It was a question about, do you know who actually regulates us? There’s so many different regulators, we don’t know which one has the final say.
Luke Thorley: I think this pandemic has unearthed a lot of problems that people knew existed before, but didn’t have the time to address them. The reason why the BAPD has sort of come together is that we all can be united on an issue that we all agree on, and we all know existed before. But no one took the bull by the horns, and no one really went for it and said, “This isn’t right, but how do we make it right?” It would be very easy for me to say my personal opinions and create fireworks on this interview. But I think it’s better to save those for Bonfire Night, and for me to stay professional to the BAPD and say, we have done everything within our power to try and get the collective voices of the profession over to the CDO, the BDA, NHS England, Matt Hancock, you name it. Keir Starmer, every single person has been contacted.
Luke Thorley: If we did it in a way that was, like you said at the start, we’re the rebels and the renegades. They just sort of bat you down the corridor. But now this morning, we’ve received a reply from the CDO. She is listening to what we’re trying to say, but now what we’re going to ask for is a direct meeting with the CDO. We’ve asked before via the BDA and the ADG for a foot in the door, to try and get us at the table. Now we’re going to be asking for a meeting directly with the office of the CDO.
Luke Thorley: We don’t want to cause a problem. We want to create a solution. Not just for NHS practises, but for private practises as well, and for every single person that is within dentistry. Whether that’s a lab technician, a nurse, a hygienist, a therapist. We’re not exclusive to just representing dentists. It’s just that the dentists were the first people to come together and get this sort of ball rolling. But we’re ready to represent the whole profession.
Prav: Luke, how will we go back? You know, come rain or shine, we’re opening our practise on the first of next month. Simple as that. That is our current position right now, in our practise. However, pretty much like yourself, it’s a fully private practise. We do a lot of want-based dentistry, is probably the easiest way to describe it. Our business financially relies upon that. We could not possibly survive as a business, let’s take the whole … We do this to care for our patients, and there’s a huge element of that. If we just went back doing emergency dentistry … What I’d like is to all go back, full blown AGP, let’s crack on.
Prav: According to what I’ve read, a lot of advice from Dominic and what’s been put across, it’s clear to me that the risk AGP versus non-AGP, is in my mind, as the science describes it, nonexistent. Let’s say the CDO gives us the nod. Is the CDO going to turn around and say, “Yes you can go ahead, with these caveats?” Or do you think that’s going to be down to the individual dentist’s discretion, and their own SOPs? Or is it something that perhaps you guys are going to be looking to prescribe as the BAPD in terms of what your advice would be to our … Being the voice of private dentistry.
Luke Thorley: I think if the … I’ll say one thing. If the CDO or the office of the CDO come out with guidelines, they’ll be open to interpretation anyway. In the same way that the advice that they’ve given has been open to interpretation, and they’ve not pinned the tail on the donkey and said, “This is the way it’s going to be.” They’ve not said, “For veneers you have to do this, for crowns you have to do this.” They’ve said, “Try and avoid certain things.” Then there’s a circle that you can always trip up on.
Luke Thorley: There’s always going to be room for interpretation. What I will say is that the BAPD have been working on a set of SOPs with the FGDP. But the process is slow, and we need it to be quicker. That is not always at our end, and it’s not always at their end. There’s always something that seems to be taking some time. We need to get this process going, and like you say. The evidence from what I’ve seen, from what’s been collated by the group, is weak at best regarding whether there’s an increased risk of aerosols, or there isn’t an increased risk of aerosols.
Luke Thorley: Because the virus hasn’t been around long enough, and we haven’t been able to put some things in place and see, “Does this work or does this not work?” It’s very difficult for us to say, “This is what we need to do.” But what we’re generating is in a sort of FGDP style, which would be a minimum, an accepted, and a best practise guidelines.
Payman: I mean, Luke, the thing is we’re looking at a recession, the chancellor said today. We’re looking at the practises who are getting their insurance and not getting their insurance. There’s so many different things we’re looking at, as far as opening up, that I think this sort of obsession with the date itself is … It’s putting people’s minds on that, where their minds could be on, “How am I going to survive, and how am I going to thrive when we do open?” I think Prav, you guys have been so busy with your virtual consults and all of that, and I’m getting contacted left right and centre. “What day is it? What day is it?”
Payman: It doesn’t really matter what date it is.
Luke Thorley: I agree.
Payman: But we’ve all got major challenges going forward, you know. As dentists, as … Me and Prav, I guess. Prav owns practises, but we’re suppliers to dentists. We’ve all got major challenges going forwards. We need to focus on, how are we going to survive, thrive, in that future going forward?
Laith Abbas: The profession’s split in terms of, some practises are going to go back to work and just do emergencies. Some practises are going to go back and just do emergencies and exams, no aerosols. Some are going to go full blown AGPs, yeah? I actually don’t know which one of those I fit into. Prav, are you going to be doing AGPs, full dentistry from the first?
Prav: The thing is, I am a business owner. I’m not a clinician. If the decision was up to me, I’d rock and roll, full blown. Full steam ahead, day one, all or nothing. A bit like I am in life, all or nothing. But I think it comes down to, from the clinicians and the principals in our practise to make those decisions. I think we’re going to take an approach whereby we’re going to minimise the number of people walking into the practise. Have them waiting in the car, and then maybe start off first of all by taking care of those patients who’ve had a little something that’s come loose. Just tidy up those patients who are in need.
Prav: And then sort of slowly start integrating, and hopefully the guidelines will come along. A little bit more waiting time between patients. Looking at the science, and being a scientist myself, I’d just say, listen, business as usual, guys. I truly believe, based on what I’ve read, based on what’s been presented to us and summarised by Dominic predominantly, that our PPE pre-COVID was sufficient.
Luke Thorley: I agree.
Prav: Otherwise, dentists would be dropping left, right, and centre with just flu, with viral load with that. That’s my take on it. Yeah, it’s a tricky thing in terms of deciding what to do. But you guys, Laith, Luke, as private practise owners, what are you going to do? Luke, you open your doors tomorrow, and you’re just providing emergency only service. You might as well be sat at home with your son.
Luke Thorley: I’ve taken that decision, that I’m not going to open on that basis. Because my practise is a want practise, it’s not a need practise. I will provide an emergency service of course for my patients, but it doesn’t make sense for me to open a full blown staffing system from a business perspective, and be treating three or four emergencies in a day. I mean, unless the patients are will to pay 500 pounds to have an exam and a checkup on a loose filling, then it just wouldn’t make any sense. I think that that is a position that a lot of practises are going to find themselves in, and it’s going to affect associates probably more than people think.
Luke Thorley: Because if you own a practise, and you’ve got four associates, but the owner of the practise could go in and deal with all the problems in a day. You’d have to pay your associates four times, and four nurses, and two receptionists. It’s just not going to happen. I think there needs to be a degree of protection in the pathway back, and it has to be that the profession is going to have to say, “Well, I’m not going to shaft my associate, and I’m not going to let my hygienist go. I’m going to create some sort of pathway back for everyone.”
Luke Thorley: I think that’s why it’s important that at the BAPD, we do represent everyone, and we won’t just let people down. I won’t let my associate down. He’s sent me a message and said, with a nervous smiley face, “I’ll see you when this is all over, hopefully there’s a job in place for me.” There will be one for him. It will be a different one, for sure. But I’m not going to change the way I’m going to do things with him, or the way I’m going to do things for my staff.
Luke Thorley: You talked before about, some will thrive and some will die, and that just comes down to attitude and application. I have enough energy to feel like actually on the other side of this, there’s actually quite a good opportunity for people who are of my age, younger or slightly older, to go, “Actually, now’s the time for me to open my own practise.” There’s going to be loads of emergencies floating around. Go for it. Get Laith to build you a squat practise. Get going with it. Because I’ve done it in 11 months, and it just requires hard work. It doesn’t require anything else, other than hard work.
Laith Abbas: Look, forget COVID for a bit, for a second. This whole situation, like a switch from lockdown moment, whenever it was. 14th of March, I can’t remember the exact date now. It’s the biggest influence and change in dentistry that we’ve had in 50 years. Dentistry is going to change a huge amount pre and post lockdown. As with everything, dentistry is going to change in terms of how the associates will be paid, how the practise will be run, how a business will be run, how we’re going to see patients, cross-infection. Awareness of patients from hygiene sort of reasons.
Laith Abbas: I mean, it is going to completely flip the whole landscape of dentistry. I don’t think people quite realise that yet, because our attention at the moment is getting back to work. I can guarantee you, a year today, we are going to look back and think, “I can’t believe how much has changed.”
Payman: Laith, how many associates and how many staff have you got in your … You’ve got three practises.
Laith Abbas: Yeah. Associates, probably about five, something like that. Staff, maybe 15. 15 staff members. A lot of them are part time, so we’re flipping between different things. I mean-
Payman: Have you worked out who’s going to pay for PPE? Is it a patient charge, or are you going to change your associate split?
Laith Abbas: Depends how you do it. I’ve got a very small contract in one of my practises. 5% contract, 95% private, and how on earth NHS … I mean, I don’t know. If you’ve got a big NHS contract, that for me is the biggest concern. Because I don’t know how that’s going to be run. If we’ve got to wait for [gaps] and we don’t know how the actual agreed SOPs are going to be, but PPE cost … Did you look at aerosol generating procedures, for example? An aerosol generating procedure used to cost 33 pence per patient. It’s now going to cost around 38 pound per patient. The average UDA value is 22 pound, 23 pound.
Laith Abbas: Explain that to me. I don’t know how it’s going to work. So dentistry is going to change a huge amount, and I think it’s the next discussion, and it’s something BAPD need to get involved with. I really hope the BAPD works closely with the BDA. Because actually, I don’t want a separation of unions. I want it to be a really strong union, and I would encourage both parties, all parties, to join the BDA and the BAPD.
Payman: Does the BAPD have a position on this? What would you like the NHS to look like, Luke?
Luke Thorley: I mean, there’s some people that are saying certain things, and this is not coming from within the BAPD, this is just some things I’ve heard that I find quite interesting. That actually suggest that, is the government and NHS England using what’s going on right now to see, does an NHS core service work? Is it something that actually they can reduce from the NHS burden and the budget? Can they actually pull out of some of the NHS contracts and allow dentistry to move more to a private model, with a core service in place for emergencies, taking teeth out, getting dentures, things like that.
Luke Thorley: I think it would be an interesting time to look at that from the NHS perspective, but I don’t know whether that is what’s going on.
Payman: Is that what you’d like to see?
Luke Thorley: Not really. I mean, I think that would just hammer business, and I’ve got a lot of friends who have NHS practises, and big NHS practises. I just don’t think that that would be the right thing to do, or to use it as a reason to do it now. I think that that needs to happen in a very very staged manner. I know we talk about phased manners and staged manners, but I really feel that if you’re going to reduce the NHS contracts dramatically like to a core service, then businesses will need a significant amount of time to prepare for that, and I don’t think that it’s something that should be implemented overnight. I can see Laith’s got to rush off, so.
Payman: Let’s just thank Laith. Thank you very much.
Prav: Thanks for your time, Laith. Really appreciate it, sharing everything today.
Payman: I know you’re busy yourself. Thanks for doing this. And well done.
Laith Abbas: Thanks, bye-bye.
Luke Thorley: Cheers, mate.
Laith Abbas: Cheers.
Payman: Well, you know, for me, I get what you’re saying about our friends who have NHS practises, and whatever the sort of incremental steps are to get to this. But if the government’s spending, they say 3% of health spending on teeth, for me, spend that 3% on a core service, and let everyone else pay for it. Then the private market will split into the classical private and independent, or different prices of private dentistry. You guys who sort of are at the peak of it right now will be the expensive private dentists, and then these new NHS guys will come in, they’ll be the cheap private dentists.
Payman: I mean, I think that makes sense as a system. You’re right, getting to that, there’ll be quite a lot of blood on the streets, isn’t it? If someone’s bought a practise with 2 million pounds, based on the NHS contract, or the corporates.
Luke Thorley: Yeah, I think it’s inevitable that at some stage there’s going to be more of a … And it’s no secret that the government are trying to do that, and they have been trying to do that for years. If you keep squeezing the NHS contracts and you keep the UDA value at 25, 20 pounds, the cost of PPE is 15, 16, 17 pounds. Then it doesn’t make sense for you to have an NHS contract. You’d be better off to hand it back. I’m not suggesting that that’s what will happen, but-
Payman: Yeah, but pre-corona, pre-corona if a friend of yours … I mean, friends of mine all the time, they say, “I’ve got toothache, where shall I go? Shall I come find an NHS dentist?” Definitely not, you know. It’s a sad situation, you’re telling people not to go. For sure, don’t go to an NHS dentist for an RCT. It shouldn’t cover everything for everyone.
Luke Thorley: I think that that’s probably very unfair for me to say not to go to an NHS dentist, because I’ve got some great friends, and great clinicians who are NHS practitioners. And they’re very ethical. Of course in every profession there’s people that are good and people that aren’t good at stuff-
Payman: Would you do that, would you send your younger daughter, your younger sister, who needs an RCT? Would you say, “Definitely go find yourself an NHS dentist, they do it cheaper?”
Luke Thorley: But if it was based on the fact of skill, and I could find someone that could do it, it wouldn’t matter who would be NHS or private.
Payman: It’s not-
Luke Thorley: But the reality is, is that most specialists are private, and I would want for my family member the best outcome. For that, I would send them to a specialist. But if they were an NHS … Some specialists work in the NHS and privately, so it’s not quite an easy way to split the two.
Payman: I’m not saying anything about the dentists themselves, I’m talking about the system, you know?
Luke Thorley: What are you asking me about the system?
Payman: I’m saying the system was broken before corona.
Luke Thorley: I’ve only really worked in private practise, so it’s very difficult for me to have an understanding of the NHS system. So I don’t know … I worked in it when I first left VT for two or three months, and then I got a private job. I haven’t really had much experience dealing with the NHS, or the system. I hear of the people, what their concerns are, the people that work inside it, but having not really had loads of experience or exposure to it, it’s difficult for me to say one is better than the other, because I just simply don’t know enough about the situation.
Luke Thorley: That’s partly why I can, despite my lack of years compared to the other people that are in the BAPD, I’ve been a private dentist for 10 years. I wasn’t an NHS dentist for 10 years and then a private dentist for 10 years. I’ve been a private dentist for 10 years.
Payman: Take us back to when you started BAPD. What happened?
Luke Thorley: How it happened?
Luke Thorley: I can’t remember, someone put a post up about they weren’t happy with the response … I don’t know if it was to the CDO or the fact that we hadn’t had any guidance of what was going on. I made a comment, and Jason messaged me, and then we got talking. I was speaking to Tiff in the background about this anyway, and Tiff, Zaki, Rahul, James, and a few others, Bertie. They were already sort of moving towards this idea of a new union for private dentistry. Myself and Jason didn’t know what was going on, because I keep myself to myself, and I only know Jason through the internet.
Luke Thorley: It was clear that when we set the group up, that they already had this situation going on, and they had a website ready to go, and they had logos designed, and they were ready to launch it. When it got down to the nitty-gritty, it was clear that we had the same ideals about where wanted to take private dentistry and how we wanted to be represented. It didn’t make sense to be separate anymore. It made sense to join together, use our pool of resources, and try and help the profession and guide it in the right direction. I think a lot of the guys who have more years of experience have been through the change in NHS contracts, and they didn’t want to see that again. They didn’t want to go through that all again.
Luke Thorley: Having heard about that, I didn’t want the profession to be buried in something that they didn’t really partake in without any input.
Payman: Yeah. Well, it’s very impressive to see you stepping up like this, man. We were talking about it, saying you don’t need to. You could be sitting out in the sun barbecuing at home, but you’ve stepped up. It’s like-
Luke Thorley: I could be. I could be sitting outside. I’ve got a two year old son, and for me, this has actually been a blessing, because I spent the first two years of his life, I spent not around. I’ll be honest, and be very candid, that I was not a very good husband because I was tied to the practise. I’d opened the squat practise, and I was there, and I actually spent more time with Laith during the build process, you can ask him, than I did with my wife. Because it meant so much to me and to my family to get this practise off the ground, and we’d invested everything we had in it. I put the house on the line. Everything was going for it, and now I’ve got this time off.
Luke Thorley: Okay, it’s been forced, but the practise is in a good position. It will survive whatever is the outcome of when we can or can’t open. We will be fine, and we’ll bounce back better. But what I can’t allow to happen is the amount of work that I put in to try and get it up and off the ground, to provide a better life for my son, and the sacrifices I’d had to go through, missing birthdays, his first steps. Seeing all these things on a phone. I couldn’t just allow this, what I felt was an injustice to keep going on. It’s not okay to just sometimes sit back and go, “Oh, well, someone else will sort it out.”
Luke Thorley: At some point, you have to stand up and say, this is not acceptable and it’s not good enough. I’ve not put in my whole life on the line for someone who has the position of power to then say, “No, you can’t do it, we’re doing it this way.” When you don’t agree with the way out, or the pathway. To help guide that pathway, and … We needed a voice. I’m glad that what I thought was then … It was heard by the other members, and it’s been well received and promoted by 10,000 other people joining in the space of four weeks.
Luke Thorley: I’d say that as a group in dentistry, we’ve achieved more in four weeks than some have achieved in their existence. And we’ve done it without any funding, we’ve done it all on our own accord. I just think, if we had this voice before, a private, well-funded, well-reserved big voice in the profession, would we have got this far down the line before we were opening our practises? I have to say, there’s no way it would have happened. Because I feel like if we had the same voice immediately as the BDA did at the start of this COVID situation, there’s no way we would have allowed this to happen. The voices that are supporting us are too strong, and the people behind it, they just will not take no for an answer.
Luke Thorley: We need to see a change. We need to see one very soon.
Prav: We’ve got one final question for you, and it doesn’t relate to the BAPD or all of this, it’s just I’ve just extracted something out of something that you’ve just said, that really resonated with me. Is that this whole lockdown period has given us time to be better husbands and better fathers and all the rest of it. Certainly, reflecting on my own life, there’s so many silver linings what have come out. I know for a fact that some things are going to change for the better, forever. Is there anything that you’ve taken away from this time, where you’ve had that breathing space away from the business where you think, “I’m going to change this in my life, and this is what it’s going to be.”
Luke Thorley: Yeah. During setting up the practise, and the first year of the practise, I suffered with crippling anxiety. I’d never suffered it before, and I suffered with crippling anxiety. Actually, it was all related to the pressure I was putting on myself to deliver the best care to the patients, make the most money, do the best treatment, keep the patients happy, keep the staff happy. But it was coming at the loss of my family life, my relationship with my wife, and definitely my relationship with my son.
Luke Thorley: I can wholeheartedly say that for the first 18 months of his life, I had no connection whatsoever to him. It’s hard to say that, as a father it’s hard to say that, but that’s the reality. Dentistry made me be like that. But what I’ve actually learned in this period is actually, I love being a dad, and I actually really enjoy spending time with my family. Actually, dentistry needs to play a second role in my life, and not be the first role in my life. Going forward, yeah, there’s going to be some changes. I’ll still work as hard, I’ll still be giving my all to my patients. But I won’t be doing things that I was doing before, and I’m not going to go back to the same ways. I’m not going to be on the minute, I’m not going to be buying meal deals and living a life in a car and on the road.
Luke Thorley: I had three jobs, and it just wasn’t necessary. Until you take it all away, I don’t need all that stuff, because actually what I already had is enough.
Prav: That’s lovely.
Payman: Lovely, man.
Prav: That’s lovely. Thanks for sharing that, Luke.
Luke Thorley: Well, I think it’s important, because I think that a lot of men in dentistry probably feel the same way, and a lot of them would never say those things. They would feel it a lot, and I think that the mental health of the profession was a little bit bad before. After this it’s going to be torn apart, and the rebuilding of what happens afterwards is very important. I think that the office of the CDO and the people who make the decisions have to be acutely aware that actually, they have a duty of care to the profession, to make sure that there’s still jobs in place for people. Because it’s okay saying, “Well you know, rich dentists, they’ll get back to it.”
Luke Thorley: But the reality is, is that it’s probably going to be a long time before we see any normality, and for some people that won’t be enough. The words will not be enough. They’re going to need to see some action. I’m not sitting here trying to be the Tyson Fury of boxing, and the mental health ambassador, or anything like that. But I’ve been through it all, and I know exactly how it feels. I think a lot more people feel like me than don’t feel like me.
Payman: Thank you very much, buddy. I like your summary, and I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for taking time out and standing up for the whole profession, you and the whole team behind you. I know there’s a massive group of dentists, both from the committee and … Let’s face it, 10,000 dentists behind that. Thank you so so much, buddy.
Luke Thorley: No problem, guys. Any time.
Prav: Thank you. Thank you so much. From my perspective, you guys have just brought a lot of sense to the profession, you know. When dentists are scrambling around looking for answers and not knowing which way to turn, or whether they should buy this air purifier or that purifier or this mask or that mask, and the science, and what you guys have brought is what the profession has needed for a long time. Huge thank you from me as well.
Luke Thorley: No problem. Well, long may it continue. We’re not going to stop afterwards, after this is all over and the dust settles. There’ll be something else that private practitioners need support on, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the people that are involved in the BAPD, because there’s no reason that they should take their time, and use their expertise to try and help the whole profession. But they are doing. We’re doing what we can, and we’re trying our best, so you’ll just have to be patient. I think something is coming very soon, possibly this week, and I hope everyone sees something positive from the outside of this.
Prav: Thank you.
Luke Thorley: No worries.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.