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In the news week commencing 20 April 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 20 April.

Friday 24 April

Dentist says ‘thanks goodness [the government] listened to the BDA’ to understand how general dental practice works

The Eastern Eye highlights dentists’ struggle to get financial help from the government and their disappointment to miss out on COVID-19 grant scheme for self-employed, which is limited to those earning more than £50,000. The newspaper points out that we’ve writ­ten to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and spoken to the HMRC to try to increase that figure to “£65,000.”

One dentist from the Midlands, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were sur­prised by the way they were forced to close under the government’s lockdown measures. “We have never before had NHS England literally contact us on a Wednesday evening and tell us we had to shut overnight,” they said. In all my 30 years I have never faced a situ­ation like this. We know some will have the virus and the symptoms won’t show, in others it’ll knock them out for six. We’re looking for leadership, and they have to be radical. At an NHS level, they’re re­sponding to a government which is struggling. It’s not brilliant, but anyone in power would struggle, no matter what colour of politics they’re from.” The dentist said at first the government did not understand general practice dentistry. They said, “What the chief dental officer, Sara Hurley, wasn’t understanding was that even though we were getting NHS income, there were a lot who have more private work than NHS. So, because we had NHS work, we couldn’t access the business grants sort of stuff. But thank goodness they’ve lis­tened to the BDA and said we could apply depend­ing on the proportion of the NHS work we do. That’s a fair outcome.”

Shortage of PPE hampers opening of urgent dental care centres

Jewish Tribune informs readers about the limitations on dental care since routine dentistry was suspended in March and cites the BDA’s survey on the shortage of personal protective equipment and the adverse impact this is having on getting around a third of urgent dental centres off the ground.

Link unavailable at this time

Thursday 23 April

MPs back BDA campaign calling for urgent government support to save practices from closure

Dentists are warning many practices face imminent closure without UK Government support, as 101 MPs across all parties sign a letter backing them. The latest development comes amid warnings of a looming health emergency with the our latest poll showing that over 70 per cent of practices report they can only remain financially sustainable for three months or less - and only one in five believe they can only survive the month. More than three-quarters of dentists will receive no support from government support schemes for the self-employed, with hundreds of BDA members reaching out to their MPs in recent days. 

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, has led efforts in parliament and penned the letter signed by the 101 MPs to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. It reads: “Dentists across the country are deeply concerned they will not resurface once this crisis has abated. New evidence suggests that over three-quarters of dentists will receive no support from Government support schemes. In particular, many self-employed dentists earned just above the £50,000 threshold for support through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Dental practices are also not eligible for business rates relief and many do not qualify for a small business grant.

ITV airs private practice concerns while BDA gets parliamentary recognition for need to expand financial support to private practice

ITV continued to highlight the concerns about accessing dentistry, which were cited in these reports yesterday. This included an interview with our spokesperson Mohsan Ahmed who explained how people can access dentistry in lockdown and also with our vice chair, Eddie Crouch. ITV also highlighted the difficulties faced by a private dental practice near Southport. The practice pointed out that it was necessary for them to take a mortgage holiday and bank loan to ‘ensure that we have a business to come back to at the end of the pandemic.’

Meanwhile, our campaign to extend financial support to dentists in private practice is influencing the debate at a national and regional level. Ben Lake MP for Ceredigion Wales has tabled a parliamentary motion which highlights many of our concerns. Chief executive, Martin Woodrow, said he was pleased to see that there is strong recognition by many MPs of the vital role dentists play in their communities and the untenable position which many private practices now face. “Our message on the imminent risk of high numbers of closures and the disastrous consequences for the dental industry and patients alike has been heard. Financial support for dentists in private practice is essential and we will continue to campaign on your behalf,” he said. 
The Mirror Online: Dental care workers forced to wear diving masks due to PPE shortages
The Mirror Online highlights the lengths that some dental teams have been forced to take amid the shortage of PPE, on the back of the our survey of more than 1,000 members’ revealing concerns about same. This news outlet features a dental nurse from the south-east apparently ‘relying on the underwater equipment for protection’. The Mirror went on to say that staff are using the kit while sterilising equipment and decontaminating rooms after treating patients potentially infected with Covid-19. It comes after more than half of the respondents to a BDA poll of dentists in England reported PPE shortages affecting the operational status of the Government's new urgent care centres.

Wednesday 22 April

BBC News at Six: Correct PPE essential for patient and team safety

Our spokesperson and Chair of the BDA's England Community Dental Services Committee, Charlotte Waite, interviewed on the BBC News at Six last night, highlighted the levels of frustration dentists feel in not being able to treat patients at the new urgent dental care centres due to the lack of PPE. Charlotte said: "It's been difficult for the last few weeks, we are frustrated that we haven't been able to get up and off the ground, individuals across our networks have been trying hard to get networks moving, but without appropriate levels of PPE, we cannot treat patients... We need appropriate levels of PPE, so the special facemasks and long-sleeved gowns, have been an issue getting those, but we are here and we want to be treating our patients." Charlotte said: "We have been providing remote advice to patients for a number of weeks, but we haven't been able to give that face to face delivery of care. It's frustrating for us, but patient safety, and the safety of our dental team is of the utmost importance.


Watch at 25:55.


LBC News London Live: emergency for you but not to NHS 111

Head of BDA Indemnity, Len D'Cruz, was interviewed on LBC News London Live news this morning, talking about our data showing that dentistry is facing a critical shortage of PPE. Commenting on what dentists are able to do remotely, Len said they could advise patients, for instance, on the right dose of analgesics to take, and where necessary, antibiotics, as a stop gap, though he said this wouldn't take away the pain. Len also highlighted a probable disconnect between what NHS 111 considers to be a dental emergency and what patients think. The bar on triaging is almost set too high, Len said. "If you have a broken front tooth or dentures, or a crown that come out this will be an emergency to you but not to NHS 111," he said. He also pointed out how frustrating it was for dentists who want to be able to treat their patients but don't have the PPE to do this. Len also recognised that dentists are in the queue to get stocks of PPE but not top of the list, but need a reasonable supply to be able to keep treating patients. 


BBC Radio 5 Live: Dentist horrified anyone is being left to take out own teeth

Paul Woodhouse, dentist in County Durham and board member featured on the BBC 5 Lives Drive show yesterday evening, discussing the current situation for dental patients trying to access treatment and answering questions from callers. He highlighted the fact dentists have been told to not see patients face to face, and the problems of shortfalls of PPE, which are hampering efforts treat patients at the new urgent dental care centres. He said his local UDC only opened to see patients that morning, and the PPE has been sourced by the Local Dental Committee and paid for by local dentists. He said that he was horrified to hear reports of patients doing DIY dentistry, and said no patient should be left to suffer dental pain. Several callers gave their stories of dental pain, experiencing infection, cracked teeth and gum problems. Paul highlighted the concerns dentists have about prescribing for patients they have not previously seen, due to fears of falling foul of the regulators. He said he would be happy to see patients, provided he has the right PPE, and time to ensure extended health and safety procedures between patients, he said no patient should be left suffering and having to resort to DIY dentistry.


Listen between 2:35:17 - 2:55:45.


Paul also appeared on BBC Radio Tees Breakfast, saying that the shortage of PPE is hampering efforts to treat patients at the new UDC centres.


Listen between 01:50 - 02:35.


ITV news Granada: The challenges faced by dentists and patients

ITV news Granada for the North West this morning highlighted the problem of dental surgeries being forced to closed, and patients being left without access to treatment. Our vice chair, Eddie Crouch said: "We are a caring profession and we really want to provide care for our patients but at the moment what we need to do is act in a way that is safe and not only dentists and staff, but also patients, we don't want to spread the virus." Our spokesperson Moshan Ahmed discussed the problems his patients are facing and the role dentists are playing in setting up urgent dental care centres, so urgent cases can be treated - he noted that dentists are working across professions and with pharmacy colleagues, to help ensure prescriptions fo antibiotics can be electronically transferred to local pharmacies.


Telegraph: Woman contemplated extracting rotten tooth

The Telegraph highlighted our concerns that dentists in England were facing a "critical shortages" of PPE, forcing patients to "take matters into their own hands". It pointed out that over half (54 per cent) of dentists in England said shortages of protective kit were hampering efforts to treat patients at urgent dental care (UDC) hubs, in a survey of 1,010 dentists by BDA. A lack of PPE had meant that around a third of the sites in England remained inactive, compared with just 2% across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Rosie Langridge, 57, told The Daily Telegraph that she had contemplated removing her wisdom tooth when it turned a "shiny black" after three weeks of pain. Mrs Langridge, said she tried calling her dentist but they were closed. "I messaged friends saying, 'what do I do? I'm reaching for pliers here'. But I thought, 'I'm going to faint if I do this'." Eventually she was prescribed antibiotics after getting through to the 111 helpline.

Tuesday 21 April

BBC covers lack of PPE delaying opening of UDC sites in England

Our survey of more than 1,000 members on their views on the adequacy or otherwise of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the urgent dental care (UDC) hubs was featured by the BBC. The reveals that over half (54%) of dentists in England say that PPE shortages are hampering efforts to treat patients at the UDC hubs. A lack of PPE means that a third of the sites in England remain inactive, compared with just 2% across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The BBC highlights that local practices were told to suspend routine face-to-face services on 25 March in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and to set up local UDC hubs to treat patients with urgent needs.

However, Chair Mick Armstrong says progress has been too slow. "Many dentists have been redeployed, only to find their hands tied by a critical shortage of kit, and delays in training and fit-testing. The depth of these problems will fatally undermine any progress on getting this network up and running," he says. Our survey provided dentists with an opportunity to air their frustrations over ill-fitting or non-existent PPE that prevents them from treating patients. One dentist told the BBC they had been redeployed to a UDC hub in the Midlands. However, they said their hub is currently unable to treat patients until a testing kit to be used on masks arrives. "It's frustrating and disappointing when we know there is a significant need for urgent care because of a lack of training and PPE", they said. "The testing kits are shared across the region and they're being been taken up and down the motorway, and we're still waiting for it to arrive."  In response, the chief dental officer for England, Sara Hurley, says there are now 219 open hubs "to provide care for those who need it" and that "every hub has the relevant PPE and work is ongoing to ensure that supply is maintained.”


BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: dentists’ frustrations over lack of PPE and ability to treat patients in need

BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today highlighted dentists’ frustrations over their inability to treat patients because they are not getting the appropriate PPE. Mike Ehrlich, a practice owner in West Yorkshire, spoke of his frustration at not being able to see any of his patients in the past three weeks and how care has been limited to triage, advice over the phone on temporary filling kits, painkillers or prescribing antibiotics. That’s all, he said, that dentists can do. Presenter, Dan Johnson, said he has heard criticism of NHS England and the chief dental officer, Sara Hurley, while things seemed to be better organised in the other UK nations. The CDO was quoted as saying PPE was on its way and that a network of more than 200 urgent care centre hubs is now up and running, which the presenter claimed was news to some dentists in Yorkshire. 


Mike Ehrlich said there were none in his region. “We have applied to be one,” he said, “but we haven’t heard back.” He said that all the dentists he knew have applied to be redeployed on NHS 111, if not, the hospitals, but no one has heard back about these either. Eddie agreed with Nick Robinson that there was widespread frustration since dentists are limited in what they can provide, amid a huge backlog of patients in pain and dentists want to deliver that care. He accepted that dentistry is low priority compared to saving lives but thought it was ridiculous that patients were having to resort to DIY dentistry in this country.


The full interview can be heard from 6:45.


200 BBC news outlets run our stark discovery

The results from the our survey were also aired on the 7.00am news bulletin on BBC 1 Breakfast programme, together with an interview with Mike Ehrlich. The survey findings were cited hourly on BBC’s national and regional news, throughout the day and in around 200 BBC outlets right across the UK. BDA’s vice chair, Eddie Crouch, was interviewed on several news channels, including BBC Merseyside Live at 07.38, Kent Live at 07.45, and Shropshire Live at 7.52. Eddie was also interviewed on BBC1 TV Coronavirus Update at 16.57 just before the Downing Street briefing.


New Statesman waves the flag for concerns over lack of face masks

The New Statesman’s commentary on the government’s efforts to secure protective gowns for healthcare staff, noted that these remain in short supply, as the spotlight today shifts to face masks. It points out that the government’s scientific advisers will meet later to examine the evidence of masks’ effectiveness at stopping the spread of coronavirus – and ringing in their ears will be a warning from Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, that advising the public to wear masks could “potentially jeopardise NHS supply”. The article references our concerns that more than half of dentists say a lack of PPE is restricting urgent dental care (UDC). A third of UDC hubs in England remained closed, and that patients were being forced to “take matters into their own hands”.


Sky News TV includes criticisms by dentists and anaesthetists of inadequate PPE stocks

The findings from our survey also made headlines news on Sky News TV with Adam Boulton, at 11am.


The Mail: I have toothache. What should I do?

The Mail declared today that we are now firmly in week five of lockdown, and asked experts about a wide range of issues that impact on our daily lives, and how we might resolve these. This includes advice from Dave Cottam, chair of our General Dental Practice Committee, on how to manage intermittent toothache.  Dave explained that all High Street dentists are now closed and no face-to-face appointments are allowed during lockdown.


"If you have a dental problem, call your usual practice," he said, "they may be able to give you advice over the phone and prescribe painkillers or antibiotics, if appropriate. If your problem is urgent, your dentist may refer you to one of the urgent dental care centres that have been set up.” Dave also said that only if there is a danger of the airway being compromised would you be advised to go to A&E.


Independent: Government accused of ignoring offers to produce PPE

Our survey was also cited in an article in today’s Independent which looked at the government’s efforts to source PPE from Turkey and overseas, while apparently neglecting to bring in smaller suppliers into the national effort. Meanwhile, Ravi Mahajan, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said his organisation would support medics who feel unsafe to treat patients. He said: "What we are advising our members is that you have to take stock of everything. Your health, the patients, the compromises that you may have to make, are they safe enough?

Monday 20 April

Man resorts to DIY dentistry as face swelled up 'like Elephant man"

Last week our concerns that inability to access emergency dental care would lead to a surge in DIY dentistry attracted attention in the Mirror and other news outlets around the country. Over the weekend, BBC News Onlinethe Sun and Metro also picked up this issue centred around Billy Taylor, who with the help of his 11 year-old son, removed his own tooth. Mr Taylor said he rang 111 to find out about getting an emergency appointment in Devon but was told that unless he couldn't breathe, or his airway was blocked to stay where he was. He said he was not told about any of the emergency centres in the area, nor was he aware of any. These news outlets also quoted our warning that DIY dentistry was "inevitable" given the "failure" to get urgent care centres up and running. NHS England, which is setting up urgent care centres, apologised to anyone "having problems" getting dental care.

NHS dentist spends nights delivering food when she's not in hospital

The Metro highlighted how NHS hospital dentist, Harshini Pindiola, has been supporting colleagues during the coronavirus outbreak. She works at Guys and St Thomas's and has been taking snacks to doctors, nurses, paramedics and other hospital staff during the evenings, to give them a break during the pandemic. We also covered Harshini's story and other amazing volunteering stories from dentists in a recent blog.