‘We could lose everything’: Forgotten medical practices soldier on for patients
- Credit: Archant
A gap in government funding has left health-related businesses with uncertain futures as lockdown continues to prevent most patients visiting them.
Many medical practices are in a group of businesses currently without specific support from national government, not included on a list of businesses that qualify for an expanded Retail Discount on business rates.
The government are currently giving many businesses a 100% business rates discount for 12 months, covering shops that use the majority of their space for retail, which exclude physiotherapists, dentists and other medical businesses.
Many practices require a building so large that they also do not qualify for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or are in urban areas and do not qualify for Rural Rate Relief (RRR) – meaning they are still paying out thousands each month in rent, rates, utilities and wages yet cannot see paying patients.
One physiotherapist affected is Bodyworks Physiotherapy Clinic on the Severalls Industrial Estate, Colchester.
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Six therapists there were self-employed and are now unable to work, leaving clinical director Katrina Wade and one other member of staff.
“One of our team has actually gone back into the NHS for work,” said Mrs Wade.
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“Our number of patients has been slashed, we have a pot of money in case things go wrong but if this situation carries on for months, we’ll run out.
“We have spent seven years working hard to build up our reputation in the community, and now we could lose everything.”
The government has not ordered practices like Mrs Wade’s to close and they can still carry out emergency appointments – which she says are rare.
“We have a pilates studio we can’t use due to social distancing and we can’t see patients face-to-face, so that has all moved online,” she added.
“We have some patients but we used to see about 90 people a week. Now it’s no more than 15.”
However, when we start to come out of this, their services could be more in demand than ever before.
Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, said: “I believe the word ‘rehab’ needs to be on the lips of every healthcare manager and decision-maker, as they prepare to deal with the long-term after effects of the coronavirus crisis.
“Because rehab – in both hospitals and in the community – is critical to keeping the flow of patients moving, freeing up beds and increasing the NHS’s capacity to treat more critically ill patients.”
What has the council response been?
A Colchester Borough Council spokesman said: “We are aware that some business sectors are not supported through business rates relief or grants.
“However, there are other means of financial support available through Government initiatives, which are continuing to evolve as the response to coronavirus develops.
“The council has created some dedicated pages on the website which signpost businesses to the different support available.”
What about dentists?
The North Hill Dental Practice in Colchester is also left with no direct government funding.
Like Bodyworks, their staff are continuing to do everything they can to help patients safely.
Clinical director Dr Sachin Sedani said: “We are still able to triage patients over video call and make sure they get any emergency treatment they need.
“It’s important the public knows that dentistry is still going ahead and they can get treatment if they need it and they contact us.
“Prescriptions can still be made and taken to a pharmacy and we can still give advice, and to make sure we are as safe as possible when we reopen we are having new air filtration systems fitted throughout our practice.”
The British Dental Association (BDA) have asked MPs to “throw them a lifeline” and announce further financial support for dentists.
BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: “The Chancellor’s deal has left the UK’s dental services dangerously exposed. “Dedicated health professionals aren’t looking for special treatment. We just need the same support that’s been given to our neighbours on the high street.
“Failure to act will only jeopardise the care millions of patients depend on.”
What if I need help during the coronavirus lockdown?
• You can contact Bodyworks Physiotherapy Clinic on Facebook and by calling 01206 844 410.
• If you need more information regarding dental advice, you can call North Hill Dental Practice on 01206 557 912 and the team can direct you to the appropriate service.