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In the news week commencing 13 July 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 13 July.

Thursday 16 July 2020

BBC News Northern Ireland: “Better chance of finding a unicorn than PPE”

Coronavirus live update on BBC NI points out that from Monday, dentists are expected to move into the next phase of operations, with the return of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs).  This should mean, the article states, the return to most routine dental work, however, this is in doubt due issues around the availability and affordability of the right kind of PPE. Richard Graham, the chair of British Dental Association Northern Ireland, told the Nolan Show about the difficulty of sourcing the equipment. "One of our members, a friend of mine, said to me he was trying to source PPE and unicorns, he had a lead on the unicorns but he didn’t think he was going to be able to get the PPE," he said. "The problem is to the level of the PPE that we need to use," he said.


He said the type of PPE available to dentists could be used for things like "ordinary examinations, extractions, temporary fillings" but would not be suitable for anything involving a drill. The correct type of PPE was "really expensive", Mr Graham said, and the health service had informed the sector it was not able to source the equipment for dentists. He said the cost of the PPE could be £30 to £40 per patient. "Most of the treatments that we get in the health service are less than that, so it doesn’t really make a lot of economic sense," Mr Graham added.


Wednesday 15 July

BBC Radio Foyle: Northern Ireland’s dentists face PPE delay
Chair of Northern Ireland’s Dental Practice Committee, Richard Graham told BBC Radio Foyle’s listeners today about the worrying PPE situation that dentists’ in Northern Ireland face. Some procedures may not resume on Monday because of the delay in PPE. Over the last weeks and months the BDA has bought this to the attention of the NI Assembly, amongst other concerns.

Listen from 01:04 – 09:00 min.  

BBC News NI: PPE delay for dentists 'will affect services'
BBC News NI reports that a delay to an order of PPE (personal protective equipment) for NHS dentists in NI could see some treatments being pushed back, according to the BDA. About three million PPE items were due to be delivered to dentists this week, but have now been delayed until 20 July. The Department of Health said the logistical challenge of the delivery had been "significant". BDA NI National Director Tristan Kelso said the PPE delay "will absolutely delay [treatments], there's a big backlog of treatment and we want to provide that under the health service". 

Dentists in Northern Ireland have been able to provide non-urgent care to the public since 29 June and they are expecting to be allowed to carry out what are known as aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) - which includes fillings and other treatments from 20 July. Tristen said that because of the sheer quantities of PPE that dental practices need, the organisation recognised "a pretty big effort on the part of the department" to try and make it available and said it was disappointing it had been delayed. He also said the lack of level two PPE needed was a major problem and that purchasing it required "extra money" from the department: "We're kind of in a holding pattern until that's resolved I really don't see how the level of AGP treatments can go up and that's the feedback we've had from our members. As well as the health service side of things, our private practices are really struggling financially. So they're stuck - the cost of the PPE would be more than the remuneration they would get to carry out the treatment - it's going to need extra money because at the minute Covid has just put the price of PPE beyond any pre-Covid level." 

The BDA has written to the first and deputy first ministers to highlight the "very grave issues facing dental practices in Northern Ireland" and to call for an industry support package. The letter states that dental practices, and jobs, are at risk and that "there has been no additional help forthcoming from those government departments to address loss of private earnings". It added that health service practices face the prospect of being permitted to carry out AGPs from 20 July, "while not having any access to a central supply of level two PPE to enable them to do so". The Department of Health spokesperson said that as well as three million items of PPE, the Financial Support Scheme had provided £12m in support payments to NI dentists to date: "This scheme will continue for a further month to support the return of non-urgent dental care as the restrictions are lifted. The Department is engaging with the profession around the provision of ongoing financial support for the remainder of 2020/21."

The Belfast Telegraph: NI dentists warn practices will close without cash injection
The Belfast Telegraph says dentists in Northern Ireland have asked Stormont for an urgent financial support package, or practices will close. In a letter to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, BDA NI Dental Practice Committee Chair Richard Graham said many dentists “are at their wits end”. “The financial impact is of an unparalleled scale, and unlike other sectors, the prospect of significant disruption to the volume and type of dentistry that can be carried out looks set to be a feature for the foreseeable future, the impact on dental earnings is such that revenue is not even coming close to covering outgoings. We are looking at a failure of dental businesses, and associated job losses on a Northern Ireland-wide scale.”

He wrote that despite repeated efforts to “highlight the severe financial plight” facing dentists with the Health and Economy Ministers “the response has been wholly unsatisfactory”. He added: “Regrettably, despite repeated efforts to highlight the severe financial plight facing mixed/private-oriented dental practices in particular to the Economy Minister, and also having raised these issues directly with the Health Minister, there has been no additional help forthcoming from those Government Departments to address loss of private earnings. Since March, we have written three times to the Economy Minister, and engaged with the Economy Committee. The response from the Department is wholly deficient, and fails to recognise the mixed economy of dental practices; and that dental practices activities and ability to trade are severely restricted despite being technically open. In short, the response has been wholly unsatisfactory. Richard stated that dentists are “facing a stress on their finances that they are increasingly unable to meet. Personally, many of these dentists are at their wits end. They need help, and they need it urgently from the Executive,” he wrote. He called for a bespoke support package for private dentists, and additional funds “to keep Health Service dentistry viable". “We need a dedicated support package to be put in place for private dentistry, and additional funding is needed for the general dental service that recognises the additional costs of providing services post Covid-19,” he said, “We look forward to the Executive’s response to our call for urgent support.”

Since June 8, practices have only been offering face-to-face urgent dental care. Practices have been seeing around 2,200 patients per week with around 250 patients per week being seen in NI’s Urgent Dental Care centres, according to the Health and Social Care Board. 

The Scotsman: When will dentists open in Scotland?
The Scotsman reports that following the First Minister’s announcement on 9 July, dentists can see patients for routine treatment from 13 July. This is the second stage of a three-phase return to normal dental treatment, where dentists will be able to perform non-aerosol procedures. This is due to aerosol generating procedures, such as using a high-speed drill, producing a mist and making the transmission of covid more likely. The three phase return was outlined in a letter by the Scottish Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris, where the objective of treating as many patients as possible had to balanced with minimising the risks of transmitting the corona virus. The first stage was the establishment of urgent dental care centres for emergency patients only, the second is seeing patients for non-aerosol procedures and the third is seeing patients with aerosol generating procedures. There had been no timetable for moving to stage three.

Leading health organisations call on government to ban junk food adverts before 9pm watershed
BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, was among the signatories (see list below) to a letter that was published in the Times last Saturday that called on the government to incorporate a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed into its plan to deal with obesity and tooth decay. The signatories said that if government didn’t that it would be hard to support its obesity plan, especially since this a popular measure that is such a measure would be supported by 74% of the public. They also point out that to help the nation be healthier, the government needs to simultaneously curb all the factors that influence poor diet. They highlight that the food industry spends millions every year to keep their products centre stage in our minds - adverts for unhealthy food dominate prime-time TV and social media channels. 

Professor John Wass, Obesity Health Alliance; Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK; Professor Rachel Batterham, Royal College of Physicians; Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, British Medical Association; John Maingay, British Heart Foundation; Chris Askew, Diabetes UK; Professor Simon Capewell, Faculty of Public Health; Dr Max Davie, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Kieron Boyle, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity; Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing; Ben Reynolds, Sustain; Pamela Healey, British Liver Trust; Professor David Kerrigan, British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society; Christina Marriott, Royal Society of Public Health; Dr Maria Bryant, Association for the Study of Obesity; Matthew Philpott, Health Equalities Group; Professor Graham MacGregor, Action on Sugar; Michael Baber, Health Action Campaign; Andy Burman, British Dietetic Association; Anna Dixon, Centre for Ageing Better; Sarah LeBroq, Obesity UK; Kim Roberts, HENRY; Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign; Phillip Newsome, British Society of Gastroenterology; Mick Armstrong, British Dental Association; Cathy Lewis, Caroline Walker Trust; Jude Obden, Obesity Action UK; Fiona Donald, Royal College of Anaesthetists; Dr Cheryll Adams, Institute of Health Visiting

Not available without a subscription to the Times.


Monday 13 July 2020

Hard to swallow: Dentist's £40 PPE bill

The Times reports that while NHS dental charges remain the same, now that dentists have re-opened, private dentists may increase their charges. The article highlights that this is being driven by huge increases in costs of personal protective equipment (PPE), due to covid and the limited number of patients that can now be seen in a day by a dentist. BUPA is leading the way for private dental providers with a £40 'covid safety tariff', for patients who require aerosol generating procedures (AGP), such as fillings, and a £7 extra charge for a routine check-up. This is due to the increased protection that dentists require to perform AGPs and the increased costs of social distancing. There was concern that increased charges would deter some patients.


Carmel McHenry from the BDA, explains that PPE costs for dentists have increased by 6000% since the start of the crisis, and that the increased overheads, from being able to see less patients each day, means private dentists will likely be forced to increase their charges.


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