There was a hard frost this morning – a chill in the air of you will, and not entirely meteorological in its origins. Not the first of the dento-political winter, I'll be bound.
Anyone in NHS practice will know of the work of the LDC’s in representing colleagues locally, in a voluntary manner, giving generously of their time. The annual Conference of LDCs is where opinions are aired and motions passed that, one hopes, do cause the BDA's GDPC to sit up and take note. All of which feeds in to negotiations with the DH’s various.
Now I am not naïve. It’s not a perfect world and sometimes you can get the feeling that any attempt to shift an entrenched DH position is akin to pushing a wet noodle.
But the representation and the collective voice are a critical part of the complex relationship with the rule-making paymasters in Whitehall.
One anticipated problem that is emerging is the funding of the LDCs.
Gone, under the 2013 NHS changes, is the simple local Statutory Levy, delivered locally to the relevant LDC. That worked far too well and was far too easy.
In its place – well to be honest, it is unclear. It appears from information available to date that the LDCs are being asked to suddenly and without notice combine their banking facilities. The idea of a local levy seems far too much effort for the Area Teams. Indeed it is not even clear about the agreed method of calculating a Statutory Levy. Worryingly, much of the wording that Area Teams work to involves the use of the word *may* - it is not even clear if they *must* collect and distribute the LDC Levy on your behalf.
The Area Teams report that their position is the one recommended by NHS England. Which unless I am very much mistaken, means that the CDO at NHS England presumably has rubber stamped this approach himself.
Bad management or a good plan ? ...
Now call me suspicious. It is but one year before a huge contract reform which will catch the unwary and unprepared with significant changes to their style and methods of practice. This will in turn create a cadre of vulnerable practitioners who simply cannot make headway under the new regime and will need effective representation. One arm of the representation will be the LDCs. This would the very same LDCs who are about to be put through the enforced political shredder of unexpected reorganisation themselves. You don't think that is could be a deliberate intention on the part of the CDO and his cohort of "Contract Reform" planners, do you?
If the BDA have woken up from the spell of scandal with the magic kiss of Dr Mick Armstrong, he and the GDPC would do well to make a very big fuss.
In the big game of dental chess, I worry that the DH are in a very strong position. An effective FULLY FUNDED LDC is in YOUR interest.
I suggest you start making your own fuss while there is time to prevent the matter worsening. You could start by phoning your LDC Rep and offering your support and also phoning the BDA and enquiring, politely if you will, what exactly they are doing in the Trades Union role to sort this true scandal out?
Suspend all negotiations with the DOH about any contract reforms until this is sorted out. It shouldn't take too long to reprogram the computer system to deduct the LDC levy nationwide once the principle of who pays what is decided. Also, don't agree to any further discussions until an adequate settlement is reached for those dentists who have their earnings "top-sliced" towards seniority payments, but aren't receiving any. Don't trust the DoH to do the right thing, because if the recent past is anything to go by, they won't..