Dr Asif Hamid: Why I opted to leave the NHS

Moving on: Dr Hamid left the NHS around six years ago in order to be a private dentist.

What is the future of the NHS? Dentist Asif Hamid has fixed teeth all over the world, including in disaster zones. He worked and trained in the NHS, but says the bureaucracy drove him to quit.

Dr Asif Hamid had been working at an NHS dentist practice for just four weeks when he realised he had to quit. “I treated every patient with respect, dignity, in the right way,” he explains.

Then one day his boss came up to him. “You’re spending too much time with your patients,” he was told. “You’re not earning any money for me. I’m not able to offset the costs incurred in keeping you here. I could give the room to somebody else who can earn a lot more than you could.”

“I very quickly realised that I would have to be unfair to somebody,” Dr Hamid recalls. He could not earn enough money by treating patients to the high standard he felt they deserved. And so “it was myself or my patients under that system. That’s why I opted to leave.”

He now runs his own private dentist surgery. He is a specialist prosthodontist — a dentist who has trained for an extra three years to diagnose diseases and reconstruct teeth. “I generally get referrals from existing dentists, when they feel something is beyond their level.”

He also volunteers for Humanity First, coordinating emergency responses in disaster zones like Haiti and Nepal, as well as treating oral diseases for homeless people in the UK.

He says that the NHS is “comparable to none”, because “nobody asks you whether you have got any money in your pocket or not.”

However, he thinks it has too much bureaucracy, and too many managers without medical backgrounds. If he was put in charge, “the first step would be perhaps to use some common sense, reduce some of the managers and use the funds and the bonuses to go into the clinical services.” He says financial constraints should never be put above clinical needs.

Despite his criticisms, he would “absolutely encourage” anyone that is thinking about becoming a dentist.

“Irrespective of what they hear in the media, the primary objective of becoming a dentist or a doctor or a surgeon is to heal people. That emotional and that human aspect must not be lost just because of financial concern. So if you do not want to be part of the system, that’s absolutely fine. I’m not part of the system, but I‘m still doing what I enjoy. I’m able to help in transforming the lives of so many people.”

How will the NHS look at 100?

“So, being rather blunt, if no reforms and no changes were held at this point in time to increase the services, to increase funding… if nothing of that sort was done and it went along the same pathway as it is right now, then I only see it as an emergency service and nothing more than an emergency service, 30 years down the line.” He pauses. “I struggle to see beyond an A&E department. The rest will have to be private health care, insurance-based and so on.”

You Decide

  1. Do you agree that managers without medical training should be cut from the NHS?
  2. Should the NHS be privatised?

Activities

  1. Split into groups. Imagine you have founded a new country with one million citizens. You need to decide on a health care system for them. Should they pay for treatment? If not, how will the costs be funded? And will it include dentistry and opticians as well as doctors? Take it in turns to present your plan to the rest of the class.
  2. Read all of our interviews with people who have worked in the NHS. (You can find the rest by clicking on “NHS at 70” at the top of this article.) Then write your own opinion piece explaining your experiences of the NHS, whether it is seeing your GP or getting an operation. Finish by answering the same question as our interviewees: How will the NHS look at 100?

Some People Say...

“Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art.”

Paracelsus

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In England, NHS dental treatment is free for anyone who is (i) under 18, (ii) under 19 in full-time education, (iii) pregnant or with a newborn baby, (iv) receiving low-income benefits, (v) treated by a hospital dentist. Everyone else is charged for check-ups and treatments. As of April 2018, the costs are: £21.60 for an exam; £59.10 for simple treatments like fillings and removing teeth; £256.50 for complex treatment like crowns and dentures.
What do we not know?
Whether funding for NHS dentistry will ever be free again, or whether it will disappear completely. When it was founded, NHS dental treatment was free, just like seeing a doctor. However, charges were introduced in the 1950s, a decision which prompted NHS founder Nye Bevan to resign from government.

Word Watch

Earning
In the UK, most adults have to pay for NHS dental treatments, although the charges vary depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. See the Q&A for more details of how this works in England.
Prosthodontist
One of 13 dental specialities. It involves restoring natural teeth, working with facial deformities and malaligned teeth.
Haiti
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti. Around 100,000 died and thousands more were injured or made homeless.
Nepal
On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, triggering an avalanche on Mount Everest which killed at least 20 people. Around 9,000 people were killed by the earthquake. Hundreds more died in the aftershocks that followed. Hundreds of thousands of homes were lost, as well as important historical buildings.
Insurance
In America, patients are expected to have health insurance to cover the medical costs of seeing a doctor or receiving hospital treatment.