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In the news week commencing 28 September 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 28 September.

Thursday 1 October 2020

Patients left 'in limbo' by NHS virus response
Several media outlets cover the release of the latest Health and Social Care Committee report, which highlights the stress and anxiety caused to patients by "poor communication" from NHS bodies in England during the COVID pandemic. The BBC  reports that while recognising the huge burden placed on the NHS, the report says cancelled treatments and surgery had left some "in limbo" and others "too scared" to seek medical help. The report also questioned why weekly testing of NHS staff had not yet begun. And it called for their mental and physical wellbeing to be supported. The report also called for NHS bosses to take urgent action to tackle the huge backlog of appointments in all areas - from cancer to mental health, elective surgery, and dentistry. MPs are worried a lack of dental care during the pandemic has led to a backlog of patients with toothache and infections needing surgery. Many dentists say they are also struggling financially. BDA Chair Eddie Crouch is quoted, saying: "Dentistry effectively ceased to exist under lockdown, and we are still a long way from normal service levels."

See also: 


Coronavirus: Thousands could die in disrupted NHS, warns Jeremy Hunt

NHS Covid disruption could cause tens of thousands of deaths, MPs warn

Read our response:

BDA greets call for government to set out plan to restore services


Oral cancers going undetected as dentists struggle with COVID crisis
The Belfast Telegraph reports on a warning that oral cancers are going undiagnosed as patients wait six months for a dental check-up, as the service struggles with the effects of Covid-19. Dentist Philip McLorinan said: "Whilst dealing with the backlog and the list of abandoned treatments, we are also now being contacted by an increasing number of patients who have had issues which they have been self-managing or who didn't want to bother us with during the lockdown. Their problems are now beginning to boil over and need urgent attention. I am concerned there is a common misconception that 'it's business as usual' in dental practices but unfortunately, the reality is very different. Working through these outstanding issues is having a knock-on effect on being able to recommence routine check-ups. I fear that there will be a lot of undetected disease which will include oral cancers." The reports quotes the BDA’s survey which showed that only 2% of dentists polled say they have good or very good morale, while figures show a 77% downturn in activity levels in Northern Ireland in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. Not only has this resulted in massive backlogs of patients, but dentists' incomes have been significantly reduced as well. Mr McLorinan said he would like greater financial support from the Department of Health. The BDA has warned its members against making potentially costly changes to premises until the position on funding is clarified by the Department of Health. A Health & Social Care Board spokeswoman said: "The pandemic has affected the way the entire health and social care system delivers services and care to patients." She said officials have provided financial support for NHS dentists, as well as mental health support for healthcare workers.


Wednesday 30 September

Coronavirus: Scottish dentists ‘turning away’ NHS patients
The Herald reports that more dentists in Scotland are refusing to treat NHS patients than in England, leaving many struggling to get access due to restrictions on treatments. An investigation by the Herald found there is wide variation across Scotland and some confusion over what treatments dentists can or are willing to provide if patients are not private due to the impact of coronavirus. Professor Phil Taylor, Dean-Elect of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd)’s Faculty of Dental Surgery said NHS practices will not be able to return to offering a full range of services until larger supplies of enhanced PPE is provided and restrictions are lifted limiting the number of patients dentists can treat. The BDA raised concerns last month that much of the enhanced PPE being provided by the Scottish Government was past its sell-by date. Prof Taylor said NHS dentists are also struggling with shortages of dental nurses, particularly in hospitals where patients tend to have co-morbidities because many are too frightened of virus risks to return. He also warned that the training of dental students could also be impacted because Scotland’s dental training schools are not fully set up for COVID safety which he said could limit patient training opportunities. A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We’ve worked with NHS Scotland procurement teams to ensure a robust and sustainable supply of PPE is available to NHS dental practices free of charge throughout the NHS Remobilisation Plan, including enhanced PPE to dental practices for Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs). As well as deploying the Scottish Government budget for NHS dental services, we are investing an additional £2.75 million per month. This means we are making exceptional payments to the value of £12 million per month to support NHS dental incomes. Scotland’s Chief Dental Officer has been meeting the Deans of the Dental Schools in Scotland on a regular basis as they prepare the dental hospitals to provide safe working environments for students to return to clinical practice.” Also Coronavirus: NHS dental treatments available in Scotland updated


Fears for future of Dumbarton dental care in COVID aftermath
The Dumbarton and Vale of Leven reporter featured a story on patients being forced to pay more for treatment as COVID-19 funding cuts start to bite. Dentists in the area have expressed fears for residents needing treatment and warned of a “stranglehold” on practices. In 2018, the dental health of West Dunbartonshire children was branded “poor” compared to the average for the whole NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. There was an increase in both P1 and P7 children considered to be needing to see a dentist as soon as possible due to severe decay or abscess. The piece features comments from a local dentist, Ghyll McCallum on his concerns about the restrictions on NHS dental care, and the difficulties in keeping his business afloat. The BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee Chair, David McColl also comments, saying: “The future of Scotland’s dental services still hangs in the balance. Dentists can only see a fraction of the patients they saw pre-COVID, and with the backlog of treatment, it will take us at least six months to a year to catch up. Staff are stressed and anxious and facing information overload from all quarters. What they need is definitive guidance and support. We are inching towards a two-tier system, where many types of routine care remain unavailable on the NHS. This isn’t sustainable. The pandemic has shone a light on the broken model at the heart of NHS dentistry. It’s the right time for ministers to look afresh and provide firm foundations and fair funding for services millions depend on.” Scotland’s chief dental officer has said a process will start soon that could lead to changes to how NHS dental services are funded. The current system sees dentists paid for delivering individual treatment, but has long been criticised as overly cumbersome for dentists and confusing for patients.

Tuesday 29 September

Providing dental services are almost impossible, and patients are suffering

BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Breakfast show yesterday morning reported on a Healthwatch Gloucestershire ‘mystery shopper’ exercise, looking at dental access in the County. They phoned every NHS dental surgery in the county and said only three practices said they could provide urgent treatment. Ten per cent said they were willing to take new private patients, but over half said their waiting lists weren’t open for NHS treatment at the moment. Manager of Healthwatch Gloucestershire, Helen Webb said: “The fact that people couldn’t access dental care whilst in pain is the most disgusting thing’.


In response, the programme spoke to BDA Board Chair, Eddie Crouch who said: ‘’Yes, it does concern me, but it doesn’t surprise me sadly. This is a situation that we’ve got across the whole of the UK, providing dental services, the way we were pre-COVID is almost impossible for our colleagues and unfortunately, many patients have been suffering.” He explained that many practices work on a mixed model where the private income subsidises the NHS provision. He said: “The agreement we’ve reached with NHS England is that practices continue to provide the same percentage of private/NHS treatment that they were doing pre-COVID. The difficulty that many private practices have is that much of the support been offered by the Chancellor has not been there for private dental practices, and if some of these practices go to the wall, then some of the NHS provision will go with it.” He added: “The BDA has come out quite strongly telling dentists that this agreement with NHS England is there to support their practice, and if they behave in a way where they are coercing patients into private treatment when they could provide that on the NHS, is not something I would ever condone.” He highlighted the problem with access to NHS dental services pre-COVID, and the fact over 4m patients were already struggling to get seen. In closing, he said: “.... the real worry is that many patients are still suffering. We had nearly 1m patients a month being triaged by dental practices when were closed from end March to the start of June. It’s taken many practices a long time to get through that backlog.”

Listen at 01:18


Dentists' leaders warn of 'private-only' system

The Herald reports on Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd)’s Faculty of Dental Surgery’s warning that Scotland could end up with a private-only system if COVID-19 restrictions are not lifted and practices do not receive additional support. The Faculty says the profession has been ‘uniquely disadvantaged’ and there has been a lack of 'meaningful support' from the Scottish Government. Iain Gray, Labour MSP for East Lothian said ‘an impasse’ on PPE had led to a situation where patients are being told they can be treated privately but not on the NHS. The Scottish Government said it had worked with procurement teams to ensure a 'robust' supply of PPE is available to NHS dentists 'free of charge.'


Monday 28 September

Dentists fear closures and warn it could take five years to repair damage inflicted by COVID shutdown
The Sunday Post reports on that Scotland’s dental health may take five years to recover to its pre-lockdown state, according to the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group. Commenting in the piece, the BDA’s Chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee, David McColl said: “The future of Scotland’s dental services still hangs in the balance. Over six challenging months, our teams have responded well, but at considerable cost. Staff are stressed and facing information overload from all quarters. What they need is definitive guidance and support. The pandemic has shone a light on the broken model at the heart of NHS dentistry. It’s the right time for ministers to look afresh and provide firm foundations and fair funding.” 


Alert issued as dental check ups in north Kirklees fall
The Dewsbury Post reports that the number of patients up to date with their dentist check-ups in North Kirklees has dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures show. The BDA says patient access across England has “fallen off a cliff” since March, warning tens of millions of patients could lose out on dental care. Figures from NHS Digital show 81,032 adults were seen by a dentist in NHS North Kirklees CCG in the two years to the end of June - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s recommended longest interval between check-ups. This was 2% fewer than had been seen in the two years to the end of March - around the time the vast majority of dentists were forced to close because of the coronavirus lockdown. But the BDA warns the latest statistics do not fully show the “unprecedented fall in access” driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. The BDA says practices face significant barriers to expand capacity, warning tens of millions of patients in England will effectively lose access to dental services unless current regulations evolve.


Are dentists open now – and when will appointments return to normal?
The Huffington Post answers a readers question, “When do we expect dentists to resume routine procedures, such as fillings?”. The response includes a comment from BDA Chair Eddie Crouch saying that a date hasn’t yet been provided for when routine NHS dental appointments will resume across the board.