Beat the Rush with Locums: The Probe

Probe Sept 18 Dental Elite Luke Arnold

Beat the rush with locum dentists 

Director of Recruitment Services at Dental Elite, Luke Arnold, looks at how using locums can help NHS practices to keep on top of their UDA targets, and why it’s important not to recruit at the last minute…

For dental practices with an NHS contract, there is little wiggle room in terms of performance. Indeed, unlike private practices, which are able to set their own individual targets and financial objectives, NHS practices must perform no less than 96% of its contracted units of dental activity (UDA) by the end of the financial year. Failure to do so can result in NHS England (NHSE) issuing a breach notice to the practice.

Depending on the circumstances of the breach and the severity and frequency of under performance, NHSE may choose to impose a lower UDA volume or price, or in serious cases withdraw the contract completely. This can have an impact on profitability, and could even lead to either closure or revision of the practice type. In instances where underperformance occurs during a practice sale, then the offer may be withdrawn from the buyer – if performance is revealed before the heads of terms are agreed – or the transaction is aborted mid-sale. Buyers will always look to mitigate any possible risk – not to mention that banks are less likely to lend against practices that are underperforming.

Despite these risks, it is not uncommon for practices to fall behind schedule – at Dental Elite we see it happen time and time again. It usually occurs in the first quarter following a mad dash in the run up to the end of the financial year, when there is less urgency to go full throttle. It’s likely that relief and exhaustion play a part in the temporary lull too, if the clinical team were working flat out in the final quarter to make sure the targets were met.

It is here, in the earlier stages of the financial year, that NHS practices can very quickly fall into the trap of under performance, because if they haven’t performed at least 30% of their contracted UDAs by the half-way point in the year, then they’re already considered to be behind. It is for this reason that practices should always endeavour to stay ahead of the game with their targets and do all they can to keep on schedule. Besides, it’s far less stressful than scrambling to make up the numbers towards the end of the year, which often means more hours in the surgery and bringing in locum staff to deal with the extra workload.

Because of that, locums tend to be harder to come by towards the end of the financial year, especially the top-tier talent, which can get snapped up quite early on. Due to supply and demand, locums are also in a better position to negotiate a higher UDA price, meaning practices could be out of pocket if their asking price is higher than the actual UDA value. Luckily, this is a quandary that can be easily resolved simply by recruiting locums earlier on in the year.

Now especially is a good time to take on a locum, as not only is the size of the talent pool much larger to choose from – helping ensure a suitable candidate can be found with greater ease and less time pressure – it will also mean that UDA targets will be on the right trajectory for completion. To give practices the best chance of finding a quality locum dentist, Dental Elite offers an extensive recruitment service, in which it will carry out all aspects of the process, including a comprehensive search of potential candidates. The team uses a range of techniques to put together a shortlist, and has an extensive network of contacts that includes experienced and reliable locum dentists from all over the country. Together, with an unrivalled knowledge of the sector and the latest trends, Dental Elite is the ideal partner for locum recruitment.

If you have an NHS contract and you’re looking to avoid possible UDA under performance, be sure to consider steps that could help you to get on track early on and keep ahead of the game. As long as you plan and prepare correctly, you should not only be able to maximise your chances of meeting your UDA target, but ensure that you do so early, thus avoiding the last minute rush.