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Coronavirus: when will dentists reopen to see patients face-to-face?

Blog Author Eddie Crouch

Blog Date 27/05/2020

Eddie Crouch tells us why the issue of when dentists will be able to see patients face-to-face is a complicated and politically fraught one, which we are seeking your views on to help make our case to government.

 

When are we going to be able to go back to work? That is the question on everyone's lips at the moment.

 

The truth is, we don’t have an answer yet, but we have been asking. 

 

And I know there is real frustration at the lack of information and guidance from our commissioners and the Government. The situation is confused and confusing, and it feels like - as always - dentists are the ones in the firing line. 

 

Resuming face-to-face dental care

There is a lot of misinformation out there, which we have been trying to counter, and we have been lobbying on your behalf to get clarity. To do this, we are asking you to tell us how you feel about resuming face-to-face care. 

 

As a dentist, I want to get back to work as soon as possible, and I know many of you feel exactly the same. It’s been frustrating not being able to help patients who are in pain, and who have been yanking out their own teeth in desperation or trying DIY dentistry to fix their teeth as featured on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week (listen from 28.35). 

 

"Our work, our livelihoods, our businesses have been on hold, causing a huge amount of stress and concern."

Our work, our livelihoods, our businesses have been on hold, causing a huge amount of stress and concern - the uncertainty has been I think for most of us, unbearable. 

 

But the possibility of us getting back to work is complicated, due to the concerns and restrictions we are likely to face due to the risks posed by the coronavirus.

 

Dental patients have been left out in the cold

It’s now more than nine weeks since we saw patients on a face-to-face basis, and every week the number of people who need dental care is going to be mushrooming - many dental patients have been left out in the cold. 

 

We are all concerned about what the future will look like for our patients. 

 

Because, even when we do reopen, we are still likely to face criticism, as dentists simply won’t be able to see the volume of patients they used to, due to the need for increased infection control and decontamination procedures. There are likely to be long queues of patients waiting to be seen.

 

"Patients say they are ‘amazed and alarmed’ that teeth and dental care aren’t seen as an essential service."

We also face problems with a shortage of adequate PPE to protect us, and our patients, from the risks posed by AGPs, and who will foot the bill for the increased costs of all of this, is still not clear. 

 

Patients say they are ‘amazed and alarmed’ that teeth and dental care aren’t seen as an essential service, despite the mantra of prevention in recent years. When dental practices closed it was the public who lost out just as much as the dentists. 

 

Clarity needed for dentistry going forward

Dentists need clarity on the plan going forward. 

 

Government also needs to hold an honest conversation with patients about what they can expect from dentistry in the future. 

 

If private practitioners go out of business, they aren’t just going to just switch to working in NHS dentistry. 

 

For a start, there isn’t likely to be enough funding for NHS dentistry, we are a service that already has been underfunded for years - NHS practice owners have taken a 35% pay cut already over the last decade. Many have been using private work to help subsidise treating their NHS patients. 

 

The UDA treadmill NHS dentists were on - the pressure to treat a volume of patients each day - is now going to be impossible, and we have asked NHS England what is going to happen, but we are still awaiting an answer.

 

Please fill in our  survey, so we can express your views to those at the top and continue to raise the issues we face with the media and the general public.

 

Eddie Crouch
Vice Chair, BDA Board

 

 

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