Face-to-face dental care in England to resume in less than two weeks

29 May 2020, 09:33 | Updated: 29 May 2020, 11:39

A dentist wears additional protective equipment
A dentist wears additional protective equipment (file image). Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Dental practices in England will be allowed to reopen in less than two weeks' time.

In a letter to all dental practices in England, Chief Dental officer Sara Hurley said on Thursday that face-to-face care in practices can resume from June 8.

However, she added practices will need to have the necessary infection prevention and control requirements in place, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Individual practices will decide when to open and will risk manage the steps to resume full service, Ms Hurley added.

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In the joint letter with Matt Neligan, NHS England director of primary care and system transformation, the chief dental officer wrote: "We support the full resumption of routine dental care, in a way that is safe, operationally deliverable and allows dental practices flexibility to do what is best for patients and their teams."

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The chief dental officer said there would be a phased return to pre-pandemic patient numbers due to infection control requirements and patient behaviour.

Dentists will be keen to start providing care as soon as safely possible, but we will need everyone to be patient as practices get up and running.

Dental practices are advised to prioritise patients both with urgent need and from vulnerable groups when resuming services.

The plans were developed in consultation with groups including the British Dental Association (BDA).

The BDA has welcomed the plans, but warned that expectations need to be managed adding that infection control and social distancing could reduce capacity by up to two thirds.

The dental trade union added that the availability of PPE may limit the speed that dental care is restored, with different practices likely to vary.

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The BDA has called for the Government to include dentistry in its wider PPE strategy to help a universal return to full dental care, as well as financial support including a business rates holiday.

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: "A return of high street dentistry we will be welcome news to millions of patients left with few options during lockdown, but key questions remain.

"It is right to allow practices to decide themselves when they are ready to open.

"Dentists will be keen to start providing care as soon as safely possible, but we will need everyone to be patient as practices get up and running.

"Dentist can open their doors but won't be able to provide a full range of care without the necessary kit.

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"Longer term, practices can only stay afloat with ongoing support, while social distancing continues and the costs of providing care are sky-high.

"Opening the floodgates risks raising false expectations, unless Government is willing to step up and help."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "During this global pandemic, there has been a huge worldwide demand for PPE, and despite this the government has delivered over 1.5 billion items of PPE equipment.

"We are working around the clock to ensure frontline healthcare staff - including those at the 500 NHS urgent dental centres - have the PPE they need.

"Dentistry is on the supply priority list and we have established new distribution routes for the sector to ensure continuity of supply across all urgent dental care centres."

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