UDAs: The final countdown
Lorraine Hunt discusses the importance of keeping track of practice performance and the role locums can play in meeting the crucial March deadline.
Every dentist with an NHS contract is aware of the stress around meeting their annual UDA target deadline, and with less than three months to go until this year’s March 31 deadline, principals need to be doing everything possible to understand where their practice stands in relation to meeting its UDA targets.
Underperforming practices are not uncommon and the last three months of a contract, when practices are doing everything they can to hit targets, are often when managers turn to outside resources for help. It can be difficult for a dentist that is proceeding with selling the practice to give their full attention to their contract while having to take time away from clinic to liaise with their broker and legal representative. At this late stage it’s all about planning – maybe extending weekday surgery hours or opening on a Saturday morning – but ensuring every surgery is running at full capacity is something an existing team can rarely do on their own. This is when recruiting a locum can be really useful and is something all practices should consider.
Locums can help to fill the gaps as and when needed either in a full-time role or on a short-term contract, to cover the necessary extra sessions. Finding a locum is not always easy and that is why it makes sense to turn to a recruitment agency that specialises solely in dentistry, such as MediCruit, for support.
Naturally, there is a trade-off between the amount paid to a locum to complete the contract versus the amount of value gained from the UDAs. Making this equation work relies on having insight into the value of each UDA, rather than seeing it only in terms of targets to hit. My advice to any client is to consider which option is more cost-effective for the practice – paying for the services of a locum in the short-term or losing UDAs and possibly being penalised at the end of the contract year?
Looking at the bigger picture, even if there is no planned sale in the pipeline and there is no need for a locum or support staff at the present time, it is always advisable for practices to register with a specialist dental recruitment agency just in case. No one can predict what’s around the corner and if the worst should happen and targets start to slip at least you will have an agent instructed, ready to immediately provide the back-up staff you need to turn the situation around.
Whether it’s an NHS, mixed or private practice, top level business performance is extremely important, especially when the time comes to sell or to plan an exit strategy. In these situations, acting sooner rather than later can pay off in the longer term.
The desirability of a practice is substantially based upon demonstrating that the existing NHS contract will be met in its entirety the following year, with accounts looked at retrospectively for at least the three previous years. Showing that targets are met every year is a great bonus when selling a practice and even if there is no plan in place to sell in the immediate future it is still an important consideration. Keeping a firm eye on performance means that when the time comes to sell a practice it will have an exemplary UDA record.
Often the NHS deals with underperformance by way of clawback, but if breaches are persistent it may seek a reduction in the UDA target and therefore contract value. The problem of underperformance can be negative for potential buyers who, like anyone, are reluctant to take on outstanding debt.
If you’re struggling to hit targets this year, you’re certainly not alone. Finding an experienced recruitment consultant who understands the nuances of the dental profession makes the job of finding locums and support staff much easier. If you think you might need help fulfilling your UDA targets by March, now is the time to act!