CDO webinar reveals routine dentistry unlikely to return before end of June

Sara Hurley hosted another coronavirus webinar last week aimed at answering dental industry questionsDental practice is unlikely to return to normal by the end of June according to the latest webinar hosted by England’s chief dental officer.

CDO Sara Hurley took to the screen last Friday in her second webinar aimed at informing the  profession on the NHS response to COVID-19 and its impact on dentistry.

At the start of the 45-minute live discussion, she acknowledged that the current climate has ‘fundamentally changed’ the working lives of dentists and their patients.

Speaking along with Matt Neligan, director of primary care and system transformations, some of the key points of the webinar were:

  • The decision to cease all routine dentistry was ‘not taken lightly’ and was in full knowledge that an exit strategy would be needed
  • Goggles, visors, aprons, FFP2 and FFP3 masks are now available but there are still fit-testing issues with the latter. There is also still a shortage of gown
  • A new partnership between the British Dental Association (BDA) and NHS England is looking to replace current system of a manual UDC regional report. From May 1, there will be a ‘pan-England’ UDC reporting tool
  • Any changes or easing of industry restrictions will be in line with Public Health England. This may involve practices re-opening to carry out non-AGPs based on risk and availability of PPE or low-risk activities like screening
  • A re-emphasis that NHS England are only empowered to make adjustments to NHS financial arrangements, which does present a challenge for mixed/private. Practices with a private element are reminded that they are eligible to seek government support for their private proportion
  • NHS England are committed to giving ‘reasonable notice’ when it comes to reopening practices. There are many variables that will make it likely to go on beyond the end of June. Currently, however, there is no fixed date
  • Dental professionals who have been redeployed on the frontline or are working in urgent dental care centres are eligible for key worker ID and testing under new government regulations. NHS England are making a ‘great case’ for this to be extended to the wider dental sector as it moves into new phase
  • A ‘new normal’ is the reality as the industry faces a new demography of dental need.

The CDO signed off thanking the profession for its hard work and acknowledged the ‘fear and doubt’ they are likely to be experiencing.

She said: ‘This is not a lone wolf battle. This is myself working with a myriad of many other individuals and there is a lot to do.

‘I also know that a lot of you share personal loss that COVID-19 has brought. Individuals have lost loved ones and we’ve been unable to say our goodbyes.

‘I know we are going to emerge from COVID as a resilient profession’

Less confrontational

Sunny Luthra praised the improvement of the CDO during the second webinar – but says there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

‘Despite being underwhelmed by her last webinar, I was quite looking forward to the next,’ he said.

‘Being quite critical of her earlier attitude it is only fair that I compliment her on the difference this time round. She had obviously taken onboard previous criticism and was considerably less confrontational, more emotive and definitely showed some empathy with the profession.

‘That being said, did she give us any new first-hand information? Ignoring all the white noise I only wanted indications of a. when we were likely to go back to work and b. what working conditions would likely be like with respect to PPE, for example.

‘None of these were answered. Private dentistry again was neglected in this webinar. I felt severely short changed. Yes, we could refer patients to a UDC via an NHS email, which incidentally isn’t an easy process, but when are we expecting to return ourselves? Future webinars need more substance.

‘They should be more like the government briefings where ample Q&A time is given. Sadly, I was once again left underwhelmed.’

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