‘The hardest week so far’: one dentist’s experience of getting back to practice

A dentist has spoken out about his experience resuming face-to-face care – and said it has been one of the hardest times of lockdownA dentist has spoken out about what it has been like resuming face-to-face care. He says better communications would help to alleviate difficulties.

Mohsan Ahmad, who is based in Manchester, revealed the week following Monday 8 June – the date when dental practices were given the green light – was the hardest of the entire lockdown.

Since this date, three of his practices have resumed non-AGP treatments, with the fourth continuing to operate as an urgent dental care centre (UDC). He is now beginning to transition into offering AGPs.

He said getting back to work has not been without its challenges.

‘Managing patient expectations has been one of the hardest parts of the “resumption” of face-to-face dental services,’ he said.

‘From their perspective, they assumed all practices were open as normal from 8 June. And I don’t blame them really, because that’s what it seemed like.

‘They don’t fully understand the challenges we face, such as access to appropriate PPE and fallow periods.’

Hardest week of lockdown

Another struggle is explaining how dental appointments will be different.

He said: ‘The week after the 8 June was the hardest we’ve had during the entire lockdown period. Following that date, the first three or four days was just about managing phone calls.

‘We were telling patients that the whole process will be a transition, rather than back to normal like pre-COVID. Quite a few have questioned why they’ve seen people walking into our practice.

‘When we’ve explained that we are a UDC and also seeing non-AGP emergencies, most patients are accepting of the situation. However, some still don’t fully understand the high risk involved.’

Mr Ahmad – who is also chair of the Greater Manchester local dental network – said his team has been of vital importance when it comes to patient communications. He urges other teams to support each other in their work.

He said: ‘The whole dental team has been paramount to all of this. The staff on the phones doing the call backs – they’re the ones who deal with it the most.

‘Dentists need to make sure they fully support their staff when dealing with challenging patients.’

Unhappy about AGPs

But the challenges have gone beyond managing patient expectations and sourcing the necessary PPE. With three of his practices based in healthcare centres, Mr Ahmad said he has also had to liaise and reason with his neighbours.

‘We have practices in health centres that we share with other healthcare professionals. Some of the users are not happy about the prospect of us carrying out AGPs,’ he said.

‘They’ve suggested that they should have similar PPE to us in the practice and think the corridor should also be subject to fallow time because the patients use that too.

‘We’re having to be a bit diplomatic when explaining to the other users that all our processes have been risk assessed and there is very little risk in the shared areas.’

Poor communications

In a bid to reassure and quash the apprehension of other local practices, Mr Ahmad has been offering visits to allow other teams to see how the patient journey now works.

He hopes this will help the profession get back up and running more confidently and efficiently.

‘We’ve had some very good feedback from these dental teams. It’s helped to ease some of the fears of their team members and allow them to practically see how a SOP works rather than reading lots and lots of documents,’ he said.

‘Our LDN and LDCs and have been excellent in facilitating this in other parts of Greater Manchester as well.’

He added: ‘The communications for dentistry to the general population has been very poor. Patients have heard from the CMO, and garnered an understanding of how things will look different in general practice and hospitals.

‘Unfortunately there was little to no communications regarding dentistry and that’s been a massive issue. It would have been good to have had patient-facing communications whenever a new SOP or announcement was made by England’s OCDO.’

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