Nine times out of ten, the patients will say, “Yeah, I like it. I noticed that you do things a little big faster. So, you had to put the fees up after a few years. I understand that,” but the BDA have done it the wrong around haven’t they? They’ve put their fees up. I can’t remember exactly what they were charging before. It was in the order of 500 or something, before, and now, members had to two choices to pay more, which is to pay nearly £800, £795, or to pay nearly £1,100, or drop down to £295, but that’s just to use the website. It’s a hands off approach, and don’t ring us, don’t e-mail us. It’s a self-service BDA, if you like, and I can see how they’ve stratified it.
What they’ve done to try to justify the increase in cost, they’ve included a lot of things that they really don’t want or most of them probably don’t want such as things like the three day conference passes because if you’re an extra member (£795), you’ve got a three day conference pass to a conference you may not go to.
Chris Ritchie: Yeah. Well, it strikes me that you already pay your GDC money, and that’s an organization that you really can’t get a straight answer out of quickly. So, you might as well not go with the essential package. The extra package seems a lot more, and I don’t understand the job really. Like you said, who’s to say everyone’s going to go to this conference?
Derek Watson: I think the extras are really targeted at associates and just the way people think about this, an extra is just as such. An expert is principles, and they’re coming into so much pressure from other organizations that are doing the member support role, you can argue how much is due to this failure to impose their policy direction on the profession nationally. So much of what dentists want now is simple check box ticking approach.
You know, we’ve got the inspector coming in. Is there a series approach called for this? Can we buy the protocols and stick them on the shelves so that when the inspector comes in, you can say, “If you want to see the blah policy, there it is. It’s all up there on the shelf.”
Now, I’m sure the BDA does some of that, but I think they’re getting into people like Smarlon and people like Simmi Shamran [12:30]. They’re probably doing it better given the choice, and obviously, we’re facing the same problem as the BDA in that respect but nobody wants to join the association on principle really nowadays. They want to know how it’s going to help them in their workplace.
So, inspection, testing, and compliance has become such a big part of the dentist that the question, really, for principle is why would you want to have to pay for an inspection testing and compliance package and then join the British Dental Association, on top of that, however much of a trade union they say they are, however much they say “Yes, you can borrow a book from the BDA library.” I mean, who the hell borrows books from a post lending library anymore? Hello, the internet’s come along and the British Dental Journal, which is such a dyre magazine.
When I was a BDA member, which I think I was for a few years, I don’t think it even got on the racks. It got stacked. I’ve been in very many dental surgeries where you go to the dentist’s office, and you’ll see a great pile of British Dental Journal stacked in the corner because they’re very heavy. They have to stack them in the corner; otherwise, after a few years, they fall over and kill you.
You say, “What are they.” Oh, that’s the British Dental Journal. I must get around to reading those one day, and you think, well, you need a fairly hefty spell in prison to have enough time to be able to read that all.
Chris Ritchie: It’s a very academic leaning for that journal, isn’t it? It’s not a magazine in that sense, and it’s very text heavy. I’d say I probably couldn’t get through a page of it without falling asleep at least three times. I think it also comes out, in frequency, is it bimonthly or monthly? I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Derek Watson: I think it’s monthly.
Chris Ritchie: It does offer CPD, and it’s very easy CPD. You don’t even have to get the question right to get the credit. So, people join the BDA because they come out for dental school, and certainly, for years and year, it was a done thing wasn’t it? You come out of dental school, you join the BDA. You’re a part of the union. They take care of everything else, but as you say, the times have changed. What exactly do you get from the BDA now apart from the CPD, the BDJ that you won’t read? I mean, what else is there?
Derek Watson: Well, I’ll tell you what I’ve got, and it’s literary. I got a card this morning because so many have resigned because they didn’t want to pay what they effectively say is more for the same level of service that they’re talking about figures of 10% of the membership lost. That means that they’re going to have to recruit an awful lot more people onto their lower tier, which is the £295 tier.
They’ve got 24 copies of the BDJ. This is what they get. So, it must be two a month. Two copies of BDA News, a way of recording CPD online, 5000 pages on the website, discounts on books, trade union membership, borrowing right at Europe’s largest dental library. Actually, I would pay good money not to have those. An associate contract checking service downloaded over 170 books.
I’m not saying there is not any value there, but from my experience, basically, people are pretty good at solving their own problems. If they want a book, they’ll find a book, but what they want from a membership organization is to be able to ring out and talk to another dentist and say, “This patient is driving me mad. How do I handle it?” They value this sort of personal service that we’ve always provided one-to-one tailored problem solving approach.
The British Dental Association was bad enough before this change when they used to ring up, and you wouldn’t talk to a dentist. You may talk to someone who may have had this sort of training in the problem that you’ve got, but it wouldn’t be a dentist. So, they really wouldn’t understand where you’re coming from, either, perhaps emotionally as well as technically.
One of the side effects of this 10% reduction in their budget is they’ve got to be making 20% of their stuff redundant. So, it’s going to be interesting how they’re going to argue that the increased expense, the £1100 they’re expecting you to pay, which is already pretty much all of what you did before. How are you going to get a better service for that if you got only 8% of the staff, and Eddie Crouch just resigned from the principal execute committee.
They’re looking at a £3 million loss. Now, they’ll say, “We’ll be back in profit again next year,” and they probably will because it is a license to print money in British Dental Association. I just always had this suspicion that the British Dental Association exists to support the British Dental Association and not necessarily the members.
Chris Ritchie: There’s two things here, as you said. You’re not disputing that there’s value, but most of the things that you listed off that card are literature. It’s a lot of reading that they’re offering for £1100. You can read all this, and again, the internet is there.
Dentists do not have time to do all that reading. They’re staring into the abyss of the mouth all day long, and they come out. The last thing they’re going to want to do is read 5000 pages online and two magazines a month. That’s just too much.
So, £1100, there’s value, but it’s value if you want to bore yourself stupid, reading and reading and reading every evening, which you don’t. Also, one has to wonder why this price difference thing has come up. What’s the reason for putting a package together for £1100? Any ideas?
Derek Watson: Well, I don’t know, but running a membership association as we do, I think what happens is a very small proportion of your members tend to use up most of your resources. Very many people just get the magazine. You never hear from them until they retired, in which case, they’ve resigned.
A lot of people cost a lot of money, and it’s tempting to say, “Well, perhaps we could charge them more.” You never think, “Oh, we’ll just charge the majority less,” but think perhaps you could charge more to the people who use more. They’re under a lot of pressure, I think, from everybody to be everything.
So, people don’t want to spend money on dental vinyls or whatever they can avoid, but the British Dental Association did everything and probably can’t forcefully say, “You’re our association. I think you should be providing XYZ or compliance.” What they’ve done, I think, is very similar to what Dental Protection did about 10, 15 years ago, which is have a risk based approach to subscriptions, and DPL went from charging everybody one price to say, “If you have a claim, you go up a tier. If you have two or three claims, you go up a few tiers,” to the point where we could take any type of member and say or they’re taken as a group (a group within a group if you like) they’re self-supporting. So, the high maintenance people are self-supporting. The low maintenance people are also self-supporting.
The whole idea is if theoretically that works, then everything is still self-supporting, but I think they’ve forgotten that dentists love gaming systems, as the politicians keep telling us. So, from a personal level, I think that they didn’t really pilot it, another lesson that could be learned from another body. They didn’t look at an account as to how dentists are going to look at this proposition.