‘Bottom of the scrap heap’ – how COVID-19 impacted hygienists and therapists

A dental hygienist is calling on better support for hygienists and therapists from the profession and governmentA dental hygienist is calling on better support for hygienists and therapists from both the profession and government.

Ailis Spiller, a hygienist based in Angus, Scotland, feels dental hygienists and therapists have been ‘forgotten’ within dentistry as they continue to feel the effect of the pandemic.

Here, she speaks out about how they have been impacted by COVID-19 – and what she thinks needs to be done.

‘Bottom of the scrap heap’

‘Very few hygienists are prepared to put their head above the pit as it could make us unemployable. Dentists might not want to work with hygienists who are vocal about the issues they face and the feelings they have about the way they’re treated.

‘My overall feeling personally is that hygienists feel that we’re at the bottom of the scrap heap – we’re almost forgotten about. Many of us are self-employed – and not through choice – and so we don’t get to enjoy a lot of the benefits of being employed.

‘The biggest struggles are the lack of financial support and the lack of communication. We’ve not been included in a lot of the staff calls and we had no idea what we were going back to. We were not kept up to date with anything. We’re just left to wonder.

‘They need to move dentistry on – we are not in line with other countries. Other countries are carrying on with their dental work. We need to reduce the fallow time. We need to have some evidence in terms of what is necessary.

Pandemic proof?

‘If they can reduce it down, we can definitely get things moving and get more routine procedures going.

‘We really need to be included. But bigger than that, they need to look into bringing hygienists under the remit of the NHS. Speaking for myself, I would happily pay more of an annual retention fee (ARF) to have more security, as we just don’t have any.

‘I think a lot of us feel exactly the same way. The pandemic has really shocked the dental world. Before that, we thought dentistry was bulletproof and recession-proof. But it’s not pandemic proof.’

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