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In the news week commencing 27 July 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 27 July.

Wednesday 29 July

BBC Radio Northampton: It’s good to see patients
The 11am news on Mid-Morning programme on BBC Radio Northampton today carried a ‘warning’ that dentists across England could go out of business because of the high cost of the PPE they need. The news item also quoted the British Dental Association as saying that its members have to buy PPE for all their staff, including their receptionist, raising the costs for some procedures considerably. Although social distancing measures are limiting and frustrating, and the protocols on what can and can’t be done, Alisdair McKendrik, dentist in Kettering, said that in spite of all the problems it was good to see patients. “It’s so much better than 10 weeks of taking phone calls and saying, I’m ever so sorry but I can’t do anything,” he said.

Listen from around 11.02.

BBC Radio Suffolk: Dentists are working really hard to keep you dentally fit
Today’s edition of the Mid-Morning programme on BBC Radio Suffolk included a wide-ranging interview with BDA chair of English Council, Hannah Woolnough, on the state of dentistry in the post lockdown world.  In response to a question asked by the presenter on how dentists ensure that patients are kept safe as well as themselves, Hannah assured listeners that practices are incredibly clean and safe environments and people shouldn’t worry about not being safe. She outlined typical social distancing measures that people can expect to minimise time spent in a dental practice and the pre- screening that occurs on the phone beforehand. She explained the impact that additional safety measures is having on the viability of practices since most are only running at a quarter of their capacity and this is difficult because the overheads remain the same [as they were before Covid) but she was hoping that requirements will change so that dental practices can see more patients.

When asked about PPE charges for patients, Hannah said that where these apply it was to cover costs but it is done so reluctantly as practices are run on tight margins. She also explained the synergy between NHS dentistry and the private element and how detrimental it would be for NHS dentistry if private practices went bust. When asked if PPE was getting any easier to source, Hannah said that practices could get basic PPE and that some PPE required for aerosol generating procedures is reusable, which eased some of the pressure although for some practices this would mean plumbing to fit a washing machine.  On the wider value of seeing the dentist, she advised people not to ignore dental problems as they will get worse but to be respectful of the changes as dentists are working really hard to keep you dentally fit.

Listen from 12.15.


Scotsman asks if dental practices are opened
The Scotsman has revisited the issue of dental practices re-opening, pointing out that the second stage of a three-phased plan commenced on 13 July, when dentists were “able to see registered patients for non-aerosol procedures". The article explains that an APG is produced from dental instruments like scalers, dental handpieces, three-way syringes and other high-speed instruments. It out that dentists who treat patients using aerosols are at risk, alongside their dental assistants and their patients. Most risk occurs from splatter and droplet transmission to dentist and assistant, as well as the nasal area of the patient. Although this means that "many forms of dental care will still not be possible," procedures including the fitting of dentures and dental braces, and routine will be able to resume. The Scottish Government's phased return of NHS dental services in Scotland was originally outlined in a letter to the British Dental Association (BDA) from Scotland's Chief Dental Officer (CDO) Tom Ferris on 20 May. The final stage of opening dental practices in Scotland will be introducing a limited introduction of dentistry equipment, particularly aerosol generating procedures, back into treatment of patients. However, this will be dependent on risk.  The CDO added: “We need to take into consideration the added risk of aerosol generating procedures on Covid-19 transmission.”

Ferris’ letter also explained that aerosol generating procedures, which produce airborne material during dentistry procedures, carry an extra risk of transmission.

Friday 31 July

iNews: Dentists back in business but struggling to survive as coronavirus reduces capacity
iNews includes a sympathetic feature today about the financial plight of dentists throughout the pandemic, and includes commentary from several dentists, as well the BDA. It points out that the outlook is particularly worrying for private dental practices, which were not entitled to any government grants and saw their income evaporate during three and a half months of lockdown.  "My practice has been running at a third of the capacity to maintain social distancing. It's crucial to take these precautions but there's no escaping that we're losing income," says Dr Nikhil Oberai, a dentist at Brunner Court Dental in Northwich.

The article highlights that only 50 per cent of dental workers had returned to work as of 12 July, according to data from software provider Rotacloud. There are almost 12,000 dental practices in the UK, and a quarter of these are purely private. At one point the BDA warned that dentist practices were facing "financial meltdown". Dr Rhona Eskander, a private dentist and owner of the Chelsea Dental Clinic, said she did not qualify for a business support grant for those with a higher rateable value, as these were only given to retail, hospitality and leisure. Dental practices are not eligible to receive business rates relief in the form of payment holidays because properties providing medical services are not allowed to apply. "The only government support I received was through the furlough scheme," she adds.

The article also highlights that many dentists have taken out a specialist government loan to help them stay afloat and to cover the cost of additional PPE and air filtration systems. The most popular loans are bounce back loans, which allow businesses to borrow up to £50,000 interest-free for a year. Christina Chatfield, the owner of Dental Health Spa in Brighton, took out a bounce back loan of £50,000 on top of another £50,000 private loan. She feared she was on the brink of bankruptcy when i covered her story in May.