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In the news week commencing 16 November 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 16 November.

Friday 20 November

Capital funding for dentists is the only hope of restoring routine treatments 

 

Last night ITV News Anglia highlighted findings from BDA research which revealed that more than 60 per cent of dental practices in the East of England are operating at half capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. Viewers were informed about the additional measures that dentists have to employ to keep patients safe, and cited the BDA’s call for government support to fund the extra costs involved to reduce fallow time, as ventilations systems could cost up to £10,000 for a small practice. The broadcast also featured an interview with dentist Amitosh Sahi, at his practice in Peterborough, who the presenter said had invested thousands in a new ventilation equipment. Amitosh said that COVID restrictions meant that he was only able to treat around half the number of patients he could before pandemic. The comprehensive online report on the state of dentistry now drew heavily from the findings from the BDA’s latest research on the viability of practices and pointed out that the number one barrier to increasing capacity is the time gap needed to clean between patients to minimise risks of viral transmission - with 89% of practices reporting it as a major obstacle. The report added that PPE availability - formerly the key challenge - is now cited by 27% of practices as supplies have improved. Financial and cash flow problems are cited by 59% of practices, and patients' unwillingness to attend by 35%. 

 

ITV also cited the BDA’s concern that the inequality gap is widening, as patients face poorer outcomes given the huge barriers to early detection of conditions from decay and gum disease through to oral cancer. Dentists are also worried they may be missing the signs of oral cancer by not carrying out routine checks on patients. Dentists are calling for urgent financial help from the government, pointing out that the treasury is losing out on the money NHS patients normally pay for their treatment. BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said COVID-19 restrictions had left huge backlogs. "We now face a Catch-22. New rules could bring back a dose of normality, but come with a multi-million-pound bill for new kit that practices simply cannot afford, “ he said. “On paper we have a chance to restore services to millions, but without support from Government it won't translate into better access.”   

 

Thursday 19 November

It is a ticking oral health time bomb as those with decay or gum disease are being left untreated

The BDA’s response to the National Audit Office’s latest report on procurement during the COVID pandemic was aired in a BBC 1 news bulletin yesterday ‘as minsters were criticised for setting aside normal standards of transparency when they awarded contracts for procuring PPE at the start of the pandemic’. Asked why the BDA had welcomed this report, the chair of the BDA’s Young Dentists’ Committee, Nikki Patel said that as a healthcare professional, the report has been eye-opening on the handling of PPE procurement at government level. “Any issues with PPE procurement has a direct effect on healthcare professionals on the front line, as ultimately procurement is about obtaining the equipment that healthcare professionals, like dentists, need to deliver care to people in the UK, “ she said.

 

On the issue of sourcing PPE now and at the start of the pandemic, the presenter wanted to know how difficult this has been for dentists. Nikki agreed that at the start getting PPE was a significant issue for practices, both NHS and private but unfortunately, she said, it continues to be a challenge as recent BDA research revealed that a third of dental practices were finding it difficult. Nikki explained that at the start of the pandemic, NHS and private dental practices were forced to close down, and said that many practices gave away any remaining PPE supplies they had and oxygen to hospitals due to shortages in these. She said that the opening of some urgent dental care centres had been delayed because they did not have the right PPE. Nikki added that when practices in England were able to re-open in June, some weren’t able to open as quickly as they would have liked because they didn’t have access to the right PPE. The presenter said that a shortage of supply tends to be lead to a hike in prices, and asked if that is what happened. Nikki said that some of the challenges in sourcing PPE have somewhat eased as NHS practices have recently been able to access some PPE via the NHS supply chain, but for private practices, this is an ongoing problem having to pay higher prices for PPE, but not only that there has been a further hike in prices for all practices as VAT has been restored to PPE. When asked if she had come across dentists who have gone bust or close to going bust because of all this, Nikki said she hadn’t but there have been reports of practices facing great uncertainty, she said, but having investment in PPE is going to make the difference between practices surviving and unfortunately having to close in the near future.

 

The presenter said that with all the euphoria over vaccines, we still have months to go, what are the difficulties for dentistry? Nikki said: “It is going to be very difficult for dentistry, not just PPE challenges, but dentistry is facing huge, huge backlog of patients who haven’t been able to access care throughout lockdown so dental practices are trying to deal with this huge backlog of patients who do need to be seen by a dentist. We do know that tens of millions of patients at the moment just cannot get the access to the care they need, so unfortunately people with dental problems might get worse over time if they are not seen by a dentist to get those treated. It really is a ticking oral health time bomb as things like decay or gum disease are being left untreated.”

 

BBC1 News, 18/11/2020, 14:52:46, not available

 

I have the best dental job in the world

This morning, the James Churchfield show on BBC Radio Cornwall highlighted the BDA’s research that indicated that 19 million fewer treatments were delivered since the pandemic compared to the same period last year, and practices are now having to work at a fraction of their pre-COVID capacity. This also led to an interview with dentist, Michael Twamley, who earlier this month took up a post as the new dentist on the Isles of Scilly. Michael told listeners that he has the best job in the world as he cycles down the hill to work, passing the beach and chickens on the way, and was overwhelmed by how supportive the dental team are, as well as the welcome he received from the islands’ residents. He said he studied dentistry in Birmingham and after finishing his training he came across an ad for a job in the army, which he said he enjoyed very much. This took him on tours to Germany, Bosnia, and Iraq, he said. As the new dentist on the islands and dealing with a backlog of cases, Michael said he was going through the full gamut of procedures though he was now working his way through the ‘broken’ teeth list.

 

BBC Radio Cornwall, James Churchfield, 19/11/2020, 09:41:21, not available

 

Wednesday 18 November

Eddies Mair and Crouch talk dentistry and why BDA is calling for capital investment
Is it safe to go to the dentist, how do people with toothache access emergency care, do the rules differ across the UK, and why the BDA wrote to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, this week were all aired yesterday on Eddie Mair’s (EM) show on LBC in an interview with BDA chair, Eddie Crouch (EC).

 

EM opened the dental segment by quoting the BDA as saying that dentists provided 19 million fewer treatments since March, compared to the same period last year. On the issue of safety, presenter EM joked that there’s foaming and blood at the mouth when you see the dentist and that’s only when I get the bill, to which EC assured listeners that it is very safe, as he outlined the additional precautions taken by dentists during the pandemic and why they do, and how these limit the number of patients seen. EM noted that Covid is likely to be around for some time, possibly a year or more, and asked how dentists can see more patients to which EC replied that a Public Health England report highlighted that increased airflow in surgeries - and investment in ventilations systems - could substantially reduce fallow time. EC said that’s why we’re asking the Health Secretary for capital funding to be given to dental practices to invest in these so that we can see far more patients. EC said he understood that it could be confusing for patients as the rules differed across the UK, with an effective three-month shut down in England till June 8th, while practices in Wales never closed and Scotland has re-opened. EC referred to the fact that access in some areas was bad for patients even before the pandemic, with some patients waiting for up to a year to get a dental appointment, he sympathised with patients who had to resort to DIY dentistry and outlined how people could access urgent care.


Not available on catch up

 

BBC Radio Somerset: capacity is down 50% but dentists are prioritising those most in need
Throughout this morning, the news bulletins on BBC Radio Somerset cited the British Dental Association’s concern that the country risks an oral health crisis, as dentists’ capacity to see patients in the southwest has been reduced by around 50%. It added that cleaning between patients and social distancing measures means fewer appointments are available, and as a result fewer patients can be seen.


Commenting on behalf on of the BDA, Ian Mills said that access for patients in the south west was difficult before the pandemic but this has compounded problems. He explained that the throughput of patients was reduced due to social distancing and enhanced protection measures but said that ‘fallow time’ had contributed most as this meant that a surgery was effectively locked down for a period of time after someone had a filling or an ultrasonic scaling to allow aerosols that were produced to settle. He added that although there are capacity issues, dentists are prioritising those most in need of urgent care.


Not available on catch up

 

BBC Radio Tees: if dentists were safe before, now we’re uber safe
This morning, presenter on the Gary Philipson programme on BBC Radio Tees said that 19 million fewer patients were seen since lockdown in England, compared to last year and I put up my hand, he said, I was one of them. He expressed concern that hundreds of dentists were telling the BDA that they could go out of business next year because they are only seeing half the number of patients they used to see, compared to the same period last year. The presenter said this was worrying since dentists are key to picking up oral cancers, adding that the Oral Health Foundation said the incidence of these has risen so much in the past 20 years.

 

Picking up on a conversation with the presenter during the first lockdown, Ian Gordon from Vitality Dental Care, Stokesley, said that he was very much against practices closing then but the ‘powers that be’ said they had to. However, he said, that this period of time allowed dentists to get more processes in place, so if we were safe before [the pandemic] we’re now uber safe. A patient described it to Ian as being analogous to having a car with all the safety bits in place, the belts and airbags and the Department of Health wanting you to have a man standing in front of you with a red flag to make sure you’re safe. We got through that, Ian said, we have even more procedures to follow now, and we’re trying to be as normal as possible for patients. Ian highlighted the mitigating factors to reduce fallow time, and said he had invested in air filtration systems, which ‘allows us to reduce what used to be 60 minutes, down to 10 mins’. He said that this was variable for other practices, depending on what they were able to do. The presenter wanted to know if he phoned the dentist, could he get an appointment, to which Ian said that this depended on the type of practice and patient cohort, and explained that private practices might have more capacity to see patients. He added that NHS England was asking dentists to prioritise people who are in pain, so we’re trying to see those too, he said, though we are mindful of looking after patients who have been loyal to us too. There was also a discussion around how oral cancers might present and Ian considered such cases to be urgent too.

 

Not available on catch up

 

Tuesday 17 November

Don’t swallow the mouthwash
The BDA’s outgoing scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, was interviewed today on BBC Hereford and Worcester by Malcolm Boyden about mouthwash research that featured in several news outlets this morning. Prof Walmsley said the active ingredient is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) and that it is already present in several toothpastes. He said the mouthwash should be used as an adjunct to tooth-brushing and the listeners should not forget to brush their teeth for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, twice a day. If they are going to use the mouthwash, he said, then they should wait 30 minutes before use. He also stressed that they should not swallow the mouthwash and spit out after use.

 

Listen between 2.08 to 12.15

 

Express - Coronavirus mouthwash: Which mouthwash contains cetylpyridinium chloride amid new study?

Dentists warn millions of treatments have been missed

The news that around 19 million fewer dental treatments were carried out since March relative to last year continued to make headlines in news bulletins in the BBC’s network of radio and television channels over the past 24 hours. This was attributed to BDA research, together with a warning that dentists are operating at a fraction of their capacity due to COVID restrictions and require support from government to shorten fallow time and improve access for patients. Throughout yesterday, BBC’s News 24 and regional news all across the UK highlighted dentists’ plight and patients’ struggles to access treatment, prompted by BDA research. Some of the TV coverage included the dental segment that featured in BBC1 Breakfast (which included an interview with BDA chair, Eddie Crouch,) and covered in these reports yesterday, as well as a report by BBC journalist Dan Johnson, who pointed out the BDA’s concerns that the massive drop in patient numbers could result in hundreds of practices closing next year. His report concluded with the question, what is the government’s commitment to the future of dentistry?

 

The BBC coverage prompted interest in interviewing dentists throughout yesterday; these included Ian Mills on BBC Radio Devon, George Schofield on BBC Radio Bristol, and BDA’s head of indemnity, Len D’ Cruz. Len was interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London yesterday, and he featured in reports on BBC 3 Counties radio (16.08), Kent Live with Pat Marsh (16.22), Berkshire Live 16.38), Lancashire Live (16.45) and BBC West Midlands (16.52). They all explained why dentists’ capacity to see patients has been massively reduced since the pandemic, the impact missing out on dental care has on patients and how government support to invest in ventilation systems would help address this gap and save dental practices at risk of closure.

 

This morning, Hannah Woolnaugh appeared on Mark Murphy’s programme on BBC Radio Suffolk (6am), pointing out that health inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic and said the real issue was for patients who cannot afford private care. Hannah said that missing out on treatments in a modern, wealthy country isn’t ok, and expressed concern over the impact that this could have on children’s future oral health, as well people with oral cancers which, she said, can be life-threating. She highlighted how government support in capital investment would increase dentist’s capacity to see more patients.

 

Health Business - Millions of dental treatments have been missed

BDJ study reveals that antibiotic prescriptions rose by a quarter during lockdown
Over the weekend, news outlets highlighted the rise in dental prescriptions for antibiotics since the pandemic. The Mail reported that such prescriptions rose by a quarter in lockdown earlier this year, as a study published in the BMJ reveals. Between April and July 2020, antibiotic prescriptions were 25 per cent higher than the same period in 2019 and peaked in June as patients found their access to more appropriate treatments restricted by lockdown.

 

Researchers analysed NHS Business Services Authority 2018–2020 data for England and found that antibiotic prescription rates were the highest in London, with an increase of 60 per cent in the three months of April to July. The press coverage highlighted the concern that excessive prescription of antibiotics for patients waiting for treatment just escalates the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). ‘Antibiotics are life-saving drugs - when people really need them, they really need to work,' said study author Wendy Thompson at the University of Manchester. 'Infections that are resistant to antibiotics pose a serious risk to patient safety - which is why the large rise in dental antibiotic prescribing is a huge concern.

 

After years of a downward trend, restricted access to dental care due to COVID-19 drove this sudden increase. We must guard against it happening again when the UK finds itself in another lockdown environment.' The Mail pointed out that antibiotics should usually be reserved for the treatment of severe dental infections (such as facial swelling) with systemic complications (such as raised body temperature), and they ‘do not cure toothache, and even when antibiotics are used for infections, they do not remove infection for good and the problem will return.’ Susie Sanderson from the FDI World Dental Federation told MailOnline: ‘So not only do the antibiotics not solve the issue long term, they create the risk of resistance.’ The publication of the study in BDJ coincides with the WHO's annual World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which is held from November 18-24.“

 

Mail online - Prescriptions for antibiotics dished out by dentists soar by 25% during COVID crisis as patients are forced to wait for treatments

Dentistry Online - ‘Huge concern’ - significant spike in the prescription of antibiotics by dentists

FDI - Study shows dramatic rise in antibiotics prescribed to dental patients in England during COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year

 

King's Lynn dental practice closure exacerbates West Norfolk shortage

 

The Lynn News reports that plans for a new dental practice to serve West Norfolk are to be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Ongoing concerns about the lack of dental provision in the area have been exacerbated by the announcement that the Mydentist practice on Lynn High Street will be closing at the end of this month. A spokeswoman for the practice said difficulties recruiting new dentists, alongside increased running costs has forced the closure of the High Street practice on November 30.

 

North West Norfolk MP James Wild met with NHS England and NHS Improvement’s director of Primary Care and Public Health, and the head of commissioning on Wednesday to review dentistry provision and plans for improved access. Mr Wild said a new West Norfolk practice was planned to commence from April 2021, but he fears it will now be delayed by the coronavirus. Rachel Webb, director of primary care and public health at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the East of England, said: “Although we are working hard to ensure routine dental services can be restored safely, dentists are currently prioritising those patients with the most urgent needs and those with outstanding treatments. The article says the BDA has told the Department of Health and Social Care that a package of capital funding now offers the only hope of restoring routine services to millions of patients across the East of England. In an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock the BDA has set out the case for urgent support.

 

This highlights 63 per cent of practices across the region are now operating at less than half their pre-pandemic capacity, with 55 per cent reporting less focus on ‘routine’ dentistry, as urgent and emergency cases receive priority. The BDA report also shows 56 per cent of practices in the east currently estimate they are able to maintain their financial sustainability for 12 months or less. BDA chairman Eddie Crouch said: “COVID restrictions have left dentists firefighting with huge backlogs, unable to see more than a fraction of our former patient numbers. Ministers have a choice. Make an investment that would pay for itself and bring millions back through our doors, or leave patients waiting for the care they need.”

 

The Eastern Daily Press - Dentists ‘firefighting huge backlogs’ as patients face longer waits as another practice closes

 

Colwyn Bay and Caernarfon BUPA dental practice closure will affect 12,000 patients

North Wales Pioneer reports that at least 12,000 NHS dental patients have been affected by a private health care company’s decision to close two North Wales practices. The move by Bupa to close dental surgeries by February in Colwyn Bay and Caernarfon took patients by surprise last week, as the company had not informed them. Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said there had been more than 8,000 NHS patients treated at the Colwyn Bay Bupa practice and just over 4,200 in Caernarfon in the past two years. It said the numbers don’t reflect the number of people actually affected but was the most accurate figure, as you don’t need to register at a dental surgery for treatment. If 8,000 NHS patients is an accurate figure, it would represent around two-thirds of those using Colwyn Bay Bupa’s surgery.

 

The company said it is “working with the NHS and other nearby practices to help patients transfer to a new dentist”, however the capacity for another 12,000 people is just not there at the moment. Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian said the closure in Caernarfon “is symptomatic of long-term problems in dental care”. She added: “I am particularly concerned, of course, about those who cannot afford private health services and who therefore rely solely on NHS services. Over-reliance on the private sector appears to have resulted in huge gaps in service provision when companies choose to close branches.” Dr Chris Stockport, Betsi Cadwaladr’s executive director of primary and community care, said the board will be commissioning replacement dental services “as early as possible”. He said the board was also working on schemes to recruit and retain dental professionals. The news highlights a problem across North Wales with the provision of dentistry, which needs more urgent attention.

 

On Monday, the BDA said some practices “simply can’t afford” an average of £10,000 needed for air purification equipment. It also said the time between seeing patients, needed to clean and purify treatment rooms because of COVID, meant more than three-quarters of Welsh dentists were operating at less than half capacity. Almost three-quarters were “reporting less focus on routine dentistry, as urgent and emergency cases receive needed priority”, meaning we could be storing up problems for the future as small dental issues become more serious. The study reached a sobering conclusion that more practices like Bupa’s in Colwyn Bay and Caernarfon could follow suit and close down. The BDA said: “At present, 46% of practices estimate they are able to maintain their financial sustainability for 12 months or less.” The BDA has called on Welsh Government to stump up “a package of capital funding” to get services back on track.

 

A spokesman for Welsh Government said: “Routine dental examinations have not stopped and people are being seen according to need, but dentistry is one of the most complex areas of primary care and requires enhanced PPE and time between treatments to reduce the risk of coronavirus. We are continuing to support dental practices during the pandemic – practices received 80% of their NHS annual contract value monthly payments between April and June 2020 and we suspended performance targets.

 

North Wales Live - Dental practice closures in Gwynedd and Conwy will impact at least 12,000 NHS patients

 

Monday 16 November

BBC Breakfast: Hundreds of practices could be forced to close without extra financial support
From early this morning, practically the entire BBC network in England, from Cornwall to Cumbria and Lancashire to London highlighted the BDA’s concern that around 19 million dental treatments have been missed since the start of lockdown in March, and COVID restrictions means that dentists’ capacity to treat patients has been reduced. The news headlines also carried the warning from the BDA that hundreds of practices could be forced to close within the next year without extra financial support. The extensive news coverage was prompted by the findings from the BDA’s latest research on practice viability (both NHS and private), and a letter the BDA sent to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, warning that, without government intervention, the country risks "an oral health crisis". Many BDA spokespeople provided commentary and context for those who watched BBC1 Breakfast’s coverage and BBC radio outlets. The dental segment also included an interview with a patient, Tim Miller, who was in severe pain for eight months before he was able to see a dentist privately, with financial help from friends. He explained that after a filling fell out, the tooth fractured and he developed an abscess in the adjacent teeth. This, he said, affected a nerve to the eye causing stabbing pain and temporary blindness; the pain was so severe that he contemplated DIY dentistry having tried and failed for months to get an NHS appointment.


When asked what the impact was on patients having to wait for so long before seeing a dentist, BDA chair, Eddie Crouch, said on BBC Breakfast that it is easier to treat problems in the mouth when they are picked up early, particularly life-threatening conditions, such as oral cancer. He expressed concern that the later such cases are diagnosed the worse the prognosis, and the life chances for those affected. He explained that these conditions are often asymptomatic for patients, they wouldn’t know about it, and would only be picked up by regularly screening patients but many of these would now be missed.


Eddie said that 12 months ago he had been on the BBC highlighting the millions of people were struggling to see an NHS dentist but the pandemic meant the situation was now in crisis. He said that dentists are doing all they can now to see emergency cases but COVID restrictions limit the number of patients they can see as the waiting lists get longer by the day. When asked what changes would speed up the number of patients that could be seen, Eddie flagged up a Public Health England report that showed that changes to the airflow in dental practices could reduce the fallow time in between patients. He pointed out that ventilation systems were expensive and the BDA was asking the government to put that money into practices so that more patients can be seen, and fewer people would be in the situation like Tim, who appeared earlier in the programme. Eddie said the BDA was working hard with the DH and governments across the UK, to get services back to normal, and said he was due to meet Jo Churchill, the minister responsible for dentistry, this Wednesday and hoped she would be receptive. He added that the presenter might also ask Matt Hancock, about this who was due to appear on the programme later.


Sam Shah, clinical director of a practice in London, also featured on BBC Breakfast. This clip showed several boxes in his practice to illustrate the ‘mountains of PE’ that dentists now have to buy when they treat patients. Sam pointed out that his practice helped in the effort to provide urgent care when routine care was suspended in the first lockdown. He said that pre-COVID he was able to see 20/30 patients a day and now it was down to around 10. He said that he was doing all he could to improve access for patients, that he was treating mostly NHS patients and had extended opening hours till 11pm, but we need help.
Between 6 and 9am, the dental crisis was covered in every news bulletin on BBC Radio 4’s news programme, Today. This also featured an interview with Nikki Patel, chair of the BDA’s Young Dentists Committee, who explained how a ventilation system could increase the number of patients seen by a dentist. However, she warned that the cost of these could be extortionate, and said that for a practice with three-surgeries the cost could range between £30,000 and £50,000.


BBC One Breakfast - Listen from approx. 7.20, this link remains live till approx. 9.30am tomorrow

 

The BDA says without government intervention, the country risks "an oral health crisis"
BBC News Online covered similar ground to that shown on BBC Breakfast, but in more depth. This highlighted more findings from the BDA’s research, and pointed out that of 1,337 dentists who responded, 740 said they would not be financially viable a year from now unless they were given extra support. It also pointed out that the BDA has now written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, warning that, without government intervention, the country risks "an oral health crisis". A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "The NHS is working hard to resume the routine elective services that were paused as part of the response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. All dentists are able to remain open to patients and those holding NHS contracts have continued to be paid in full throughout the pandemic. Priority access is expected to be given to urgent care and vulnerable groups, with over 600 urgent dental centres continuing to provide extra support to the dental sector."

 

Channel 4 News: Dentists need urgent support to restore services to normal
This morning Channel 4 News highlighted that almost 19 million dental treatments have been missed in England since March, according to NHS figs. The BDA says it needs urgent support if there is any hope of restoring routine services to millions of patients and it has warned that patients will have nowhere to go if dental practices go bust.


Not available

 

Telegraph: 19 million dental treatments missed during pandemic, say dentists
In the Telegraph’s round up of coronavirus news, it highlighted that the BDAs’ estimates that around 19 million dental treatments have been missed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It added that the BDA said 70 per cent of practices were left operating at less than half of capacity pre-coronavirus as it urged Matt Hancock for urgent support from the Government. It has called for a financial package which it said can to help restore routine treatment and boost access to patients. British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: “COVID restrictions have left dentists firefighting with huge backlogs, unable to see more than a fraction of our former patient numbers, especially in the NHS. We now face a Catch-22. New rules could bring back a dose of normality, but come with a multi-million-pound bill for new kit that practices simply cannot afford. On paper we have a chance to restore services to millions, but without support from Government it won’t translate into better access. The clock is ticking on an oral health time bomb, as dentists lose the chance to act on the early signs of decay and oral cancer.”

 

BDA says capital funding now offers the only hope of restoring routine services to millions of patients
Dentists estimate that during the lockdown, 14 and a half million treatments were missed, a figure they say has now risen to 19 million. The British Dental Association has told the Department of Health and Social Care and all devolved administrations that a package of capital funding now offers the only hope of restoring routine services to millions of patients, as a new survey indicates a service in crisis is incapable of delivering investment to meet new rules that could boost access. In an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock (PDF), and raised with each devolved government, the BDA has set out the case for urgent support. According to survey data from practices across the UK: 70% of practices are now operating at less than half their pre-pandemic capacity, with nearly two thirds (63%) reporting less focus on ‘routine’ dentistry, as urgent and emergency cases receive needed priority. The number one barrier to increasing capacity is ‘fallow time’ – the time gap mandated between procedures to minimise risks of viral transmission - with 88% of practices reporting it as a major obstacle. PPE availability - formerly the key challenge - is now cited by 36% of practices as supplies have improved. Financial and cash flow problems are cited by 62% of practices, and patients’ unwillingness to attend by 43%. While new regulations may enable practices to slash their fallow time, most practices (57%) now lack the funds to invest in the new equipment required to do so. Industry sources estimate costs for mechanical ventilation for meeting required levels of ‘air change’ at £10,000 for a typical practice. 52% of practices also lack data on air change levels to even establish their compliance with new rules. At present 55% of practices estimate they are able to maintain their financial sustainability for 12 months or less.

 

About Manchester - 19 million dental treatments missed during pandemic say dentists