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Updates from week commencing 11 January 2021

Read all the updates and what we've been working on during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Friday 15 January 2021



Dentistry news roundup


It's a new year but unfortunately old issues persist. This week we've been calling for support for dentistry in the House of Commons and making headway on progress for dental professionals in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine.


Here's a summary of what's been going on:



Useful links






Scotland: Government recognises crucial ventilation needs


The Scottish Government has admitted ventilation is a fundamental part of the “COVID armoury” - despite recent suggestions the new Health Minister is unwilling to set aside dedicated funding.


We have been pushing all four home nations governments for investment. Capital funding of £450,000 has been made available by the Welsh Government to help cut “fallow time” considerably and allow more patients to be seen.


When asked during yesterday's press briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m unsure if the funding arrangements around dentists are exactly the same in Scotland and Wales but we will look into it.


Deputy chief medical officer Doctor Nicola Steedman added:


“As far as ventilation goes, we know it is really important in terms of preventing COVID. In particular, airborne particles. Dentists will still be seeing emergencies. We have to assume anyone can be infectious. Ventilation is a really important part of our COVID prevention armoury.”


Support for new equipment could help bring huge numbers back through practice doors. The Welsh Government has shown leadership here, and we need to see the same in Scotland.


David McColl, chair of our Scottish Dental Practice Committee, responded: “Dental practices still face tight restrictions that have radically reduced the number of patients we can treat. At the very least, dentists need clear guidance from the Scottish Government about what they should be doing about ventilation.”






Breaking news: Insurers must pay for COVID lockdown losses


The Supreme Court has today found in favour of small firms receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies.


Last year, the FCA brought the test case against eight insurance companies representing 21 different insurance policies, and the result is likely to affect claims by some 350,000 small and medium sized firms, including many dental practices and laboratories.


We were the first trade union to directly engage with the FCA following the failure of most polices to pay out for losses incurred during the pandemic. A number of policies held by our  members were considered by the High Court either directly or as a result of being in very similar terms to one of the 21 sample policies considered.


The detail for our members will likely be less clear cut than this headline. We are awaiting a response from our lawyers and will keep you updated on all progress.





England: Updated advice on quarter four targets


We have been clear that the reintroduction of targets by NHS England at this difficult time threatens practice viability and undermines patient care.


But from 1 January, practices have been directed to carry out 45% of their monthly contractual activity between January and March. If you are struggling to meet these targets, our updated advice on exceptional circumstances and making a force majeure claim may help you.






England: Dentistry debate in the House of Commons


Yesterday afternoon, MPs from both sides of the House urged the Health Minister to abandon the new activity targets imposed on NHS dental practices from 1 January 2021.


This call came as part of a House of Commons debate, sponsored by Fleur Anderson MP, on the impact of

COVID-19 on dentistry. We worked closely with Ms Anderson to secure this debate which was granted after 36 MPs from seven parties came together to call for it.


Following our campaign calling on members to contact their representatives, many MPs quoted testimonies of their local dentists, stressing how the targets threaten patient safety and the stability and viability of practices. Our calls for greater support for private practices including business rates relief were echoed, alongside funding for ventilation equipment to help bring down fallow time, priority access to COVID-19 vaccination, and wider reform of the failed UDA system.


The Minister, Jo Churchill MP, refused to abandon the new target but offered assurances that an exceptions process was in place which would take into account circumstances such as staff sickness and patient non-attendance. She confirmed dentists and their teams would have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine and reiterated her commitment to long-term reform of the NHS dental system.


We will keep you updated on any news and all progress.





Thursday 14 January 2021



Scotland: Government declines to fund ventilation upgrades


Following our request to the Scottish Government for capital investment to increase ventilation in dental surgeries (and therefore reduce fallow time), the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing has replied saying that the Government has no plans for a significant commitment to support funding for bespoke ventilation solutions in dental practices.


The response is disappointing, but unsurprising given our discussions with the CDO and Scottish Government on the issue. However, it seems that our calls for clarity on the issue of ventilation have been heard. We have been urging the CDO to issue advice to the profession on ventilation – the letter indicates that he will do so soon. We will update you once more information becomes available.





Even once vaccinated, full PPE is essential


Despite the progress that has begun to be made regarding the vaccine roll-out, it is essential that dentists and dental teams continue to follow the infection control guidance currently in place. Even if you and your team have been vaccinated, you should continue to follow universal precautions. 


There are several reasons for this. As government guidance states, it may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine. We also know that some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, and while this should be less severe, taking precautions reduces this risk. 


More importantly, while a full course of the vaccine will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill, it is not yet known whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus. It is expected to reduce this risk, however, until more is known you should continue to follow the guidance to help reduce transmission and protect those around you.





Dental students: Tonight's webinar


This evening, the Chief Dental Officer is hosting a webinar for dental undergrads with the Dental Schools Council, the GDC and Health Education England to update you on what they're doing to limit disruption to studies and entry into the profession. The aim is to give undergrads the latest information on the pandemic's impact on dentistry.


The webinar takes place this evening 18:00 - 19:00 on Microsoft Teams. Don't miss out! Register your place now and share this sign up link with any dental undergrads you know.





MPs debate dentistry this afternoon


With NHS targets imposed and the nation back in lockdown, this afternoon MPs are set to debate the support the government has offered dentistry.


We’ve gathered the evidence on what the new restrictions mean for practices. We’ve surveyed our members and asked leading pollsters YouGov to tell us where the public stand.


The results are stark:


  • 46% of adults in England now indicate they would be likely to cancel a routine dental appointment.
  • 45% are now less likely to seek routine care when due for a check-up, when compared to before the new restrictions.
  • Our own survey indicates nearly 8 in 10 practices have seen an increase in the levels of cancelled or missed appointments since the New Year, with 43% reporting they’ve seen a much higher than usual rate of no-shows compared to earlier in the pandemic.
  • More than three quarters of practices also report issues with staff availability since the New Year, with 39% citing COVID infection as having a high impact, with 53% citing staff self-isolation, and 42% problems in securing childcare owing to lack of clarity on their key worker status.

Thanks to members hundreds of MPs have now heard the facts about the crisis facing this service.  At what’s been described by the Chief Medical Officer as the “worst weeks of this pandemic” all practices need support, and NHS targets are simply impossible to justify.


You can find out more in GDPC Chair Dave Cottam’s blog: England: Support for dentistry needed now more than ever.
The debate is expected to take place around 3:30PM. You can watch live on



Wednesday 13 January 2021



Webinar: Setting up a private dental practice during a pandemic


Book your place for our upcoming webinar on setting up a private dental practice during a pandemic. It will take place tomorrow - Thursday 14 January from 19.30 - 20.30. Members can attend for free, non-members can attend for £50 and DCPs for £30.


This webinar will go through how to set up a private dental practice during a pandemic. The speakers will draw on their 20+ years of experience of setting up dental practices for their dental group and clients.





Northern Ireland: Brexit and your dental practice


Many dentists in Northern Ireland will need to apply for an XI EORI number. If your practice does any low-level trade with GB, such as sending impressions to labs in Scotland, you need to:



Any dental practices in Northern Ireland that receives human tissues, cells or acellular bone products from suppliers in GB now require an import licence from the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) in order to continue. For more information see the Northern Ireland section of the HTA website or email them directly for advice:


Tristen Kelso tells you what dentists in NI need to know about Brexit, or see our Brexit page for an overview of the impacts on dentistry.





Keep up to date


Members, make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletters to get news and updates straight to your inbox. Here’s an example of our bi-weekly member newsletter. You’re in control of the emails you receive from us and you can update your preferences at any time.

Not a member? Sign up to our news and campaigns list for all the latest updates.





Northern Ireland: How did the Executive perform in 2020?


Caroline Lappin looks at how the NI Executive performed in its first year back and asks what this means for dentistry:


"No one foresaw what 2020 would bring. When the NI Executive reformed on 11 January 2020, after three years in the political wilderness, Northern Ireland once again had a functioning Government. But after just two short months a global pandemic was declared, and COVID-19 came to define all our lives."


"Our briefs to Health Minister Swann and the Health Committee were clear and consistent. Help us stay open, help us to keep treating our patients, help us to stay in business. So how did our politicians respond?"





Pregnancy and COVID-19


If staff follow correct procedures and wear appropriate PPE, we understand that the dental environment is a safe one and that pregnant members of the dental team can continue to work safely, subject to risk assessments.


As would be expected, managers and other team members must be mindful of colleagues who are pregnant. The following of all practice policies (such as wearing the correct PPE, hand washing and social distancing) to avoid transmission of the virus between team members is essential.


If you are pregnant and working in a dental practice, it seems right that you wear a mask and follow infection control procedures at all times, no matter your gestation. Find out more in our FAQ advice to pregnant members of the dental team.   


Members can also access our risk assessments:




Tuesday 12 January 2021



Resources to help you live a healthier life


Currently 28% of adults in England are living with obesity and 36% are overweight. Evidence also shows that being obese significantly increases your chance of being admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 compared to those with a healthy body mass index (BMI).


However, almost half of people surveyed (43%) said they feel more motivated to make changes to their life this January. Indeed, around 6 million adults aged 40 to 60 said that they plan to eat more healthily (40%), lose weight (39%) and exercise more (41%).


Are you and your team looking for support with these kinds of new year's resolutions? If so, Public Health England (PHE) are providing resources which might help. Check out the variety of tools and apps available to help you improve your health and mental wellbeing, including the updated NHS 12 Week Weight Loss app.





Scotland: Dentistry remains within portfolio of Health Minister


The Scottish Government has confirmed that dentistry remains within the portfolio of the new Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Mairi Gougeon.


We have asked the government to clarify why dentistry is listed under the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport’s portfolio (rather than the Minister’s) on the Scottish Government website.


We will keep you updated as we learn more.





Scotland: Advice for wholly private practices following latest lockdown


The National Clinical Director and Chief Dental Officer have issued a joint letter to confirm that dentistry is essential healthcare and that wholly independent or private practices can deliver a comparable service to that available through the NHS. As before, cosmetic or aesthetic procedures are not regarded as essential and must not be provided in Level 4 areas.


We had received queries from members about an apparent contradiction between what could be provided under private and NHS dentistry, and this letter should help to clarify the issue.





COVID-19 vaccination: Update your CQC details


NHS England has confirmed that dental teams, along with other healthcare staff, are being prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations.


The CDO for England shared information regarding how the vaccination programme will be rolled out for dental teams - NHS, mixed and private.


The CQC has now notified dental professionals to reiterate that they are working with NHS England to ensure that they have the right contact details for private practices who are not registered with the NHS.


If you are a private practice and your details are not up to date, it is essential that you let the CQC know by submitting a notification form.



Monday 11 January 2021



Additional controls for new COVID-19 variants


New controls have been introduced to attempt to slow the spread of new variants of COVID-19. Regarding the South African variant, specific actions are recommended for individuals admitted to hospital with relevant travel and contact exposure.


Anyone who has arrived from South Africa are also recommended to have a COVID PCR test immediately if they develop symptoms or on day 7/8 if they have not developed symptoms. Anyone who shares a household with somebody self-isolating since their return from South Africa also needs to self-isolate for 10 days.


When booking appointments with patients, we recommend checking whether the patient has travelled from or through South Africa recently, so that you can schedule a non-urgent procedure for after the 10-day self-isolation period.





England: Priority vaccine access confirmed


Last week NHS England confirmed that all dentists, teams and support staff – in both NHS and private settings – will receive priority access to the COVID vaccine.


In a message sent to all NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, chief executives have been instructed to “work with CCGs and local systems to offer COVID-19 vaccination to all healthcare workers working in primary care as well as independent practitioners and independent providers including general practice (including locum staff), community pharmacy, dentistry, optometry and hospices.”


This will be welcome news for all dentists and team members across England.


In terms of next steps:


  • High street NHS dentists and teams- sit tights and wait, you are on the list.
  • Dentists working in trusts – your HR will have matters in hand.
  • Private practices – you will be covered, but you must ensure your CQC accounts are up to date This data will be passed to the vaccination programme for follow up.

As with all primary care providers, the message is do not contact your GP. You will be on the list and will be contacted to receive your priority access to the vaccine.





Take part in an important COVID-19 study


UK-REACH is an urgent public health study to help understand why people from certain ethnic minorities are more likely to have severe COVID-19. They are especially keen to hear from people from ethnic minorities to understand why some groups have been particularly affected by the pandemic. We encourage dentists to take part in this important study.


Register here and you will be asked to complete an online questionnaire. UK-REACH will then send you two further questionnaires over this year. Each questionnaire will ask for some information about you, your health, work and home life. Each will take about 30 minutes to complete and can be done in parts if you wish. You can find out more about the study and how your data will be protected on the website.





Dental students: Upcoming webinar


This Thursday, the Chief Dental Officer is hosting a webinar for dental undergrads with the Dental Schools Council, the GDC and Health Education England to update you on what they're doing to limit disruption to studies and entry into the profession. The aim is to give undergrads the latest information on the pandemic's impact on dentistry.


The webinar will take place on Thursday 14 January 18:00 - 19:00 on Microsoft Teams. Register to attend today and share this sign up link with any dental undergrads you know.





How can I access the COVID-19 vaccine?


As essential healthcare providers, dentists and their teams across the UK will receive priority access to vaccination for COVID-19. However, there are different systems and timetables in place across the UK. Take a look at our COVID-19 FAQs to find out what is happening with vaccinations in your local area.