The British Dental Association has responded to confirmation from the First Minister that services will recommence from 22 June, warning that a combination of higher costs and lower patient numbers could prove fatal for services in Scotland.
Practices will be able to offer urgent care that can be provided using non-aerosol generating procedures (AGPs). Dates for routine care, including AGPs, are yet to be confirmed. Wholly private practices, which comprise 23 out of the roughly 1,000 Scottish practices, have been open for some weeks now.
Shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are expected place to real limits on patient numbers. While the authorities recently distributed more than three million individual items of PPE to dental practices volumes are only sufficient to enable practices to see around 10 patients a day.
The return of routine dental care south of the border has seen a majority of practices operating at less than a quarter of their former capacity, to ensure social distancing and infection control protocols are met. Barely 8% of English practices report they can maintain their financial sustainability on this basis, and BDA has said long term support will be needed to keep the service in Scotland viable.
The BDA has also pressed the Chief Dental Officer to extend to key worker status to dentists and their teams once they reopen. Access to childcare has proved a major barrier to practices reopening in England.
David McColl, Chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee said:
“We finally have a date for the return of face-to-face care, but it arrives after weeks of waiting for clear guidance
“Practices should never have been left in limbo, but now face even greater challenges as they reopen their doors.
"Dentists have been looking forward to welcoming our patients back into our practices, but already we are hearing from colleagues who simply can't afford to reopen, given the limits of the current Government support package.
“Without meaningful help increased costs and lower patient numbers could prove fatal for practices across Scotland.”