Of those who are back at work, more than half of the UK’s dental hygienists and therapists are working reduced hours in response to COVID-19.
This is according to new data collected by the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT).
Of the more than 1,000 members who responded, 10% said they are not back at work.
Of this 10%, half reported losing their job in the face of the pandemic. Additionally, 16% of these hygienists and therapists decided on a career change while 10% opted to retire early.
The statistics also show that of the 90% that are back working, more than half (56%) are working reduced hours when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Christina Chatfield – owner of Dental Health Spa in Brighton – described her alarm, calling the year a ‘massive step back’.
‘There’s a percentage change because of the cost of PPE and the fallow time, for example,’ she says:
‘For some, their financial situations changed a lot. I know some people who were going to food banks because they didn’t get the financial support.
‘How can they expect to financially survive? What’s the impact on oral health? Especially when we can see the relation between COVID-19 and diabetes. We as a profession spent years building up a systemic profile of oral health awareness. Suddenly this access is then taken away from the patient.
‘Mouth cancer rates is something we can put a number on. Hygienists and therapists can screen for this so with less access to DCPs, these numbers are likely to rise.
‘And that’s the catastrophe. It’s not looking promising, This last year has been a massive step back. People are leaving the profession and people are not being able to access care.’
Mouth cancer crisis
Recent research reveals that mouth cancer referrals have dropped by 33%.
According to data from the Oral Health Foundation, the number of patients referred for possible mouth cancer fell from 2,257 in the six months before March 2020, to 1,506 in the six months after.
England saw a drop of 31% while Scotland saw this figure decrease by 30%. Additionally, Northern Ireland saw a drop of 36% since the beginning of the pandemic.
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