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COVID-19 UPDATE #41 – 6th NOVEMBER 2020

Following Guy Fawkes night I’m afraid I am not sharing any spectacular fireworks today, but there has been a significant amount of financial announcements worth sharing. I hope you find this digest of value.
We are sharing our 41st Covid-19 digest in relation to the Scottish Dental Sector.

POLITICAL UPDATE

The PM and Chancellor have been busy in the last five days and have made various amendments to the Covid-19 support measures in place.
They have faced criticism from their opponents for the lack of leadership and constant change. However, as always, it is easy to be a ‘side-line critic’ and their opponents have not provided any robust long term plans of their own so this can perhaps be seen to be a political point scoring exercise to a certain extent. The government has robustly defended their approach in commons with the re-iteration of the fact that this is a once in a lifetime challenge they are facing and a flexible and adaptive approach is the way they must lead the country. 
Regardless of your political leanings, as I stated in my last digest, the only constant at present is change. We will keep a watching brief on matters for you as each change occurs and help you to navigate through the pandemic.

CLINICAL UPDATE

With the full range of treatment options returning to the NHS practice settings this week it is good to see the increase in activity there, although most practices are likely to face a struggle dealing with the pent up demand for NHS services for some time to come. We sincerely hope those involved are not feeling the strain of the increase and incoming demands too stressful.
We noted the coverage of the review undertaken in Scotland around check up recall timings released this week and this provides a crumb of comfort around the lack of patient access for routine check ups during Covid-19. The article can be read at the following link.
PSD have updated their FAQ’s in relation to the support mechanisms and I now share version 11 for your information. Once again, for ease of reading, the updated questions are asterixed in the document.
PSD FAQ Vs 11

We are aware that the CDO and his office have come in to some widespread criticism for their handling of the crisis from the public and the profession. In case you missed it, the CDO appeared on Kaye Adam’s BBC Scotland ‘Call Kaye’ morning phone in program yesterday. He took the opportunity to defend his handling of matters. A summary of the key points can be read on the Scotsman’s article shared at this link.

FINANCIAL UPDATE

Given the pace of change at present I am almost anticipating that by the time I complete this digest and forward it to you that everything will have changed again! However I do hope this brief summary of the key changes tonight will give you a useful and valuable digest of the amendments. 
As I have previously stated we will no doubt see fiscal policy set to recoup the costs of the support in the economy for many years to come. The likelihood of increased tax rates seems inevitable once recovery is under way. However the Bank of England took action to issue more money in to the system via quantative easing measures. The long term impact of this policy will be interesting to watch and will impact us all.

Job Retention Scheme (JRS)
JRS (furlough) was due to come to an end at 31st October and as I covered in my last digest was extended at the 11th hour to the 2nd of December.
In Parliament the Chancellor confirmed a further extension of the flexible furlough scheme until 31st March 2021. By its conclusion this will have meant that furlough support will have been in place for a full year. A situation that no-one would have predicted in March this year.
The new furlough support will be available from the 1st November until 31st March and will;
– Pay 80% of the normal wage for un-worked hours and be applicable to full or partially furloughed workers on a flexible basis- Be reviewed economically in January to assess if the 80% level will continue to March or see a taper reduction applied- Require the employer to continue to be responsible for pension and Employers NIC payments- Be open to employees not previously furloughed as long as they were included in a wages submission before 30 October 2020- Be claimable shortly after each pay period. Importantly claims will need to be made no later than 14 days after the month end e.g. November claims must be lodged by 14th December latest- Be open to anyone who was made redundant after the 23rd September as long as on the payroll at that date. This allows you to re-employ employees and furlough them to support them financially if deemed appropriate rather than them be unemployed
This is helpful in an enduring sense to Scottish Dental Practices and will allow you to continue to avail yourself of the furlough support where appropriate as you increase your clinical volumes.
The April statement of the CDO in the PCA(D)(2020)8, which is still available in the footer of my digest tonight stated ,as you may recall, the following;
“NHS funding support would not be a bar for practices with mixed provision to claim financial support for private dentistry, providing the claim is proportionate to the amount of private dentistry being provided. Private dental care, similar to any other private business may qualify for the Employee Retention Scheme and the Business Interruption Loan Scheme (recently revised). Dental practices need to explore each of these funding streams, taking cognisance of their precise circumstances.”
This remains the last guidance for NHS practices in regard to the use of the scheme. Clearly we are now in a different position to the 1st lockdown in relation to the level of NHS and private clinical sessions you are able to operate and each practice will be different. You may benefit from re-visiting your rota plans and ensuring you construct the best commercial split of your team and usage of furlough while still being able to defend your application as being “proportionate”. If you need any assistance with that we will be happy to advice/discuss. 
As always, our recommendation is that you document any changes to your employee’s positions and if you do wish to use the furlough scheme from November onwards you should make sure your agreement letters are accurate and retained on your furlough files for 5 years in case they are required for HMRC inspection. I am still sharing the various templates in the footer of this note should you need to amend your position at this stage.

Job Support Scheme (JSS Open)
The JSS (Open) scheme planned for implementation (after its initial delay) on the 2nd December has now been ‘kicked in to the long grass’ and will not be implemented before 1st April 2021, if indeed at all. Given the amount of change at present, we feel that 5 months is a long time for a support scheme to remain as proposed and it seems likely this will receive new scrutiny and amendment prior to any launch. We will update you when appropriate news emerges, but in the meantime you are safe to simply set aside in your short term planning. 

Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
Although we fully appreciate that the SEISS support scheme has a very narrow focus/application to the Scottish Dental profession, and the vast majority of the profession are ineligible, the scheme has received a funding boost this week.
The next phase of the SEISS grant to cover the months of November, December and January was increased for November to 80% of average trading profits, dropping to 40% for the two other months. That was set to provide an average of 55% over the three months.
However we have seen a further enhancement and the full three months will now be paid at 80% of average trading profits subject to the cap of £7,500.
A further grant for the quarter ending April 2021 will be paid, however at this stage the level of payment has yet to be confirmed.
Those eligible will be invited to apply directly again from the 30th November onwards and grants will be paid pre Christmas.

Job Retention Bonus (JRB)
This scheme was designed to encourage employers to retain their employees once furlough finished and would pay a £1k bonus in February 2021 per eligible employee to the practice.
Given that furlough has now been extended beyond this period the scheme is no longer fit for purpose and has been seen to fall away.
The Chancellor has suggested it will be “redeployed as a retention incentive at the appropriate time”. Quite how that may look will not be known until it is designed and there can be no cast iron certainty of its re-emergence.
A prudent approach may be to ensure that all your team are furloughed at some point in the pandemic period to provide possible eligibility for this retention bonus in due course. As we do not know the likely eligibility conditions we cannot guarantee this will be valid but the key requirement for eligibility in the first iteration of the scheme was to have been previously furloughed and this therefore may be a useful protective measure to adopt.

Bounceback Loans (BBL)
In recognition of the ongoing protraction of the pandemic the deadline for application for BBL has now been extended to 31 January 2021.
These loans are incredibly low cost, flexible, and repayable early without penalty and as a result are useful contingency funding. We recommend you utilise the scheme where appropriate.
Also announced is the ability to ‘top up’ if you have not taken the full loan of £50k/25% of fees (whichever the lower.) You now have one more chance to add to your original loan and the banks will provide details of how to apply from the 9th November onwards. 

Market Update
We are aware that many are interested in how/if the value of practice goodwill has been impacted by Covid-19. Our friends at Christies Dental have released their latest market update this week which is very much in line with our own experience that the market remains strong and buoyant. I am happy to share their report this evening which you may find of interest.
Christies Dental Market Update

Christies Dental+Market+Update+-+October+2020.pdf

While writing I would also like to congratulate Paul Graham and his team at Christies for winning team of the year at the FMC Dental Industry Awards last night. It is a good week for team awards in our circle of friends with Integrated Dentalcare scooping the Dental Team of the Year award too at the Dentistry Scotland awards. Congratulation to both teams. At Dental Accountants Scotland we feel strongly that the team is the most important part of any organisation’s culture and success. It is really nice to see these two awards recognising the great teams at both. Well done! 

And Finally

Once again love and best wishes to you at this time from myself and the full Dental Accountants Scotland team. I hope you manage to stay safe and well. Have a restful and enjoyable weekend whatever you have planned.
As a recurring reminder – our full team are now working remotely but ready and willing to continue to do all we can to support you in any way possible. Please feel free to continue to call my mobile 07375 700468 (day or night) or book a zoom online consultation here and I will be glad to support you in anyway. Our no fee advice is available to you at this time and we will do all we can as part of your team.
I invite you to keep up to date with information on our blog and to like our Facebook page to stay in touch.

Stay safe and look after yourself and all around you at this difficult time and have lovely weekend.

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