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Northern Ireland: Dentistry and the latest lockdown

Blog Author Tristen Kelso

Blog Date 07/01/2021

Tristen Kelso, National Director of BDA Northern Ireland, gives us an update on some of the most urgent issues facing dentists as we re-enter lockdown.

 

Barely a week into the new year and we’re in the midst of another six week lockdown. And while we don’t anticipate any further changes to how general dental practices are expected to operate, there will undoubtedly be cancelled appointments and an added intensity to the matters that need addressing. Here is an update on some of the issues we are working to resolve on your behalf right now.

 

Securing early COVID-19 vaccinations

​“A clear timescale, was confirmed by Acting CDO, Michael Donaldson earlier this week.”

We welcome the important news that all General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) and their frontline staff will soon be able to schedule their COVID-19 vaccinations. We are advised that the vaccination programme will be open to GDPs by 18 January 2021 at the latest, with further details on how to book COVID-19 vaccines for dental teams expected to be received next week.

 

This follows the assurances we sought in late December, that dentists and their teams working on the frontline would be prioritised and receive their vaccinations early in the roll-out. This, along with a clear timescale, was confirmed by Acting Chief Dental Officer (CDO), Michael Donaldson earlier this week and communicated to all GDPs. We acknowledge the considerable efforts made by the acting CDO in engaging with the central vaccination roll-out team to ensure that the dental profession is prioritised.

 

Access to supervised education for your children

Key workers are defined in Department of Education press releases as staff required to maintain our health and social care sector”. Only one parent or guardian is required to be a key worker for a child to qualify for this provision.

 

“The lack of explicit reference to dentists/dental teams within the key worker definition is causing misunderstanding.” 

As key workers, dentists and their teams have provided essential, urgent and emergency healthcare throughout the pandemic, and they continue to do so throughout the current lockdown. They should clearly be regarded as key workers for the purposes of accessing supervised learning in schools for their children.

 

We are aware that the lack of explicit reference to dentists/dental teams within the key worker definition is causing misunderstanding in some school settings. This has left some practitioners struggling to access this vital educational provision they and their families are entitled to. We have raised our concerns with the appropriate officials to ensure this is resolved swiftly.

 

Accessing financial support in exceptional circumstances

During these difficult times, we know that some Health Service GDPs and practices may experience extenuating or “exceptional circumstances” which could constrain their ability to meet the conditions of FSS funding.

 

Where practitioners feel they may have extenuating circumstances, or where there are material practice changes, they should set these out clearly in writing in an email for the attention of HSCB/BSO, and send to: gds.correspondence@hscni.net.    

 

The first meeting of a group to consider how exceptional circumstances should be applied to the FSS will take place on Friday 8 January. Ahead of this, we have reiterated our expectation that where individual queries/issues are raised, and particularly where there may be significant implications for FSS funding, practitioners should receive a timely and clear response from the relevant officials. We raised the need for enhanced communications by BSO to GDPs before Christmas. And I’d like to remind BDA Extra and Expert members that they can avail of one-to-one advice by contacting the BDA Practice Support team.

 

Staying informed

As ever, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. It is frustrating to be entering a second year with the virus once more out of control, but with the vaccination roll-out now underway, there is hope. These are just some of the urgent matters that we are tackling on behalf of members.

 

We will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for support and clarity on your behalf. Please keep an eye on the COVID-19 section of the BDA website for future updates, or for recent analysis, see Caroline Lappin’s blog on the performance of the NI Executive in its first year back and what this means for dentistry.

 

Tristen Kelso
BDA Northern Ireland Director