Almost 97% of dental professionals are performing fewer oral cancer screens, survey finds

The significant majority of dental professionals (97%) are performing fewer oral cancer screenings in comparison to pre-pandemic circumstancesThe significant majority of dental professionals (97%) are performing fewer oral cancer screenings in comparison to pre-pandemic circumstances.

This is according to a new survey carried out by the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD).

And of these surveyed professionals, almost half are seeing 10 or more fewer patients per clinical day.

Additionally, more than 55% find oral cancer screenings more difficult to carry out as a result of new PPE requirements.

And more than 45% are unable to access adequate PPE to facilitate a normal workflow level.

Declined oral cancer referrals

Other findings include:

  • Around 30% of respondents were unable to obtain an NHS email to facilitate referrals, or found the process difficult
  • Nearly 8% of respondents (41 individuals) have had an oral cancer referral declined. This corresponds with a request to refer using an NHS email address
  • More than 90% of respondents think oral cancer treatment effectiveness has been prejudiced.

In a letter to Public Health England (PHE), the BAPD said it aims to raise its ‘grave concerns’ over the reduction in routine oral cancer screening services within dentistry.

‘The prime mover in this worrying trend are the fallow time requirements imposed by PHE. These reduce patient facing appointment availability,’ it states.

‘This is further compounded by a referral system via NHS email, which is clearly unfit for purpose, resulting in a disappointing reduction in the timely triage of patients with suspected oral cancer.’

It adds: ‘We understand and accept the reasoning and sentiment for extreme caution with regards to their overall strategy in order to help mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately save lives.

‘This obviously needs to be balanced with the increased risk of morbidity and deaths due oral cancer as a direct result of PHE’s overly stringent guidelines with regards to fallow and PPE.’

Backlog of cancer screenings

This comes as research last month shows around 2.4 million people in the UK were waiting for cancer screening, further tests or cancer treatment.

According to Cancer Research UK, during that time an estimated 3,800 cancers would usually be diagnosed through screening.

Additionally, it suggested 12,750 fewer patients were receiving surgery. On top of this, 6,000 fewer people were receiving chemotherapy and 2,800 fewer for radiotherapy since the start of lockdown.

You can view the BAPD survey results here. 

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