Dental leaders say some practices will not be able to reopen next week
Dental leaders have expressed further concern about the opening of dental practices from next Monday, saying a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) could mean many remain shut.
New guidance has been published by the Faculty of General Dental Practice on how dental surgeries can safely reopen across England on June 8, with measures aimed at protecting both staff and patients.
But Phil Taylor, who will shortly take up the role of dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, which has a UK-wide membership, said further Government assurances were needed regarding PPE.
He said: “We welcome further guidance and clarification on the protocol dental practices should follow in order to reopen, but we do not believe that all dental practices will be adequately equipped with PPE in time to safely reopen on June 8.
“If dental practices are going to reopen, the chief dental officers must give their absolute assurances that PPE will be readily available for all dental practitioners by June 8.
“If this assurance isn’t forthcoming, they must state that this is the case and clarify that many dental practices will not be able to reopen on this date.
“To raise patients’ expectations that they will be able to make dental appointments from this date is unacceptable, and dentists will have to bear the brunt of the resulting confusion and frustration.”
Mr Taylor said the variation in PPE could result in a “postcode lottery for patients”.
He added: “For example, our colleagues in London and the Midlands have raised concerns over PPE, with many claiming they won’t be able to source adequate equipment in time to reopen on June 8.”
British Dental Association chairman Mick Armstrong said: “Last week’s announcement came as a bolt from the blue for dentists across England.
“From PPE shortages to getting practices set up for social distancing, it has not given colleagues the time needed to plan and prepare.
“From lower patient numbers to higher costs, we know practices will need support to survive the ‘new normal’.”
The new guidance from the Faculty of General Dental Practice says patients should have a pre-appointment assessment carried out which asks them questions such as whether they are currently unwell.
“A health risk assessment should be considered as part of pre-planning to take into account ethnicity, age, pre-existing health conditions and pregnancy,” the guidance says.
“Early evidence indicates an increased risk of Covid-19 deaths relating to people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.
“Increased Covid-19 mortality risk has also been reported for men, people of older age, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.”
Bags and coats should be stored away from waiting rooms and appointment rooms, while people should turn up just in time for their appointment, the guidance goes on.
Antibacterial hand gel should be given to patients as they enter and leave the building, and people will be encouraged to attend their appointments alone if possible.
Meanwhile, people will be discouraged from using the toilet, and reception staff should have appropriate PPE and/or barrier screens.
The guidance says extra care should be taken for vulnerable patients, but temperature checks for patients are “deemed unreliable”.
The guidance says: “To minimise the risk of contamination, patients will be requested to comply with updated practice infection control and prevention policies, including the use of antiseptic hand gel on entry, leaving coats and bags in a designated area, minimising the use of the toilet area and adopting high infection control and prevention standards.
“All patients attending the practice need to be asked the current Covid-19 screening questions on entry.
“Any patient with signs or symptoms of Covid-19 should be advised to return home immediately and contact NHS 111.”
The guidance also says surgeries should use laminated notices and floor markings to stress the need for social distancing.