Northern Ireland’s CDO releases return plans for dentistry
Michael Donaldson, the acting chief dental officer for Northern Ireland, has unveiled plans for a phased return to work for dental professionals.
A number of steps have been set out to help get the profession back up and running over the course of the following months.
The CDO said: ‘While it has been absolutely necessary to limit the number of patients seen in general dental practice in order to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission, this has unfortunately meant that there are a significant and growing number of patients with pressing oral health needs.
‘A balance must be struck between protecting patients, dental staff and the public from the risk of acquiring the virus.’
The outcome after weighing risks is not fixed but depends on a number of factors including:
- The key epidemiological metrics for COVID-19
- The availability of appropriate PPE
- The capacity of the health service to respond to increased numbers of COVID-19 cases
- The prevalence and severity of unmet oral health needs in the population.
Phase 1 (a)
This is the current phase. Dental teams are limited to providing non-AGPs to patients who display no symptoms of COVID-19.
Phase 1 (b)
There will be no change to restrictions but practices can offer face-to-face urgent dental care. This is to maximise the number of patients being treated.
This phase will be introduced on Monday 8 June 2020.
It is accepted that not all practices will be able to provide face-to-face dental care during this time. ‘Buddying arrangements’ are also allowed.
In addition to the restrictions set out in phase 1 (b), practices will also be able to carry out non-urgent dental care. However, treatments will be limited to non-AGPs.
UDCs will continue to operate and carry out AGPs for patients with an urgent care need.
Routine dental care can start to be offered, alongside AGPs in general dental practice.
Dental teams should comply with guidance in relation to aerosol settling periods between patients, surgery cleaning and PPE.
Practices that have not been able to see their patients over the last 10 weeks ‘will need to ensure that they are soon in a position to provide face-to-face dental care’.
Guidance on preparations is set to be released in the coming days.
The movement between each phase will be guided by public health guidance and scientific evidence. Additionally, the CDO states that it may be necessary to tighten restrictions again.
The department is currently monitoring the availability of PPE and considering a range of options.
Find out more about Dentistry’s Back to Practice campaign.