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In the news week commencing 3 August 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 3 August.

​Tuesday 4 August

Belfast Telegraph: BDA urges NI DoH to cover cost of purchasing higher level PPE
The number of dental filling procedures during lockdown plunged by 144,000 in Northern Ireland, NHS statistics showed. Total extractions was just more than a quarter of the corresponding period last year, the Department of Health said. Appointments were curtailed with routine dental care restricted from the middle of March due to the risk of passing the virus through aerosol generating procedures. Hundreds of thousands of patients will lose access to dental care if better protective equipment is not provided by the NHS, dentists have said. Tristen Kelso, Northern Ireland director of the British Dental Association, said dentists were appealing for a rescue package: “It is as stark as it gets here. There is no way health service dentistry can be done without some sort of extra support here. We are waiting to hear if that will be forthcoming.” Dentists have urged the Department of Health to cover the cost of purchasing a higher level of personal protective equipment. They believe it is needed during aerosol-generating procedures such as fillings.

The Health and Social Care Board has launched a scheme to provide funding to general dental practices for mask fit testing. The minister has also announced that a financial support scheme, which has already provided £16 million in payments to local dentists, will continue for a further month to support the return of non-urgent dental care as the restrictions are lifted. In the interim, the department said it would engage with the profession around the provision of ongoing financial support for the remainder of 2020/21.


BBC Northern Ireland: Dental hygienists in Northern Ireland are frightened and worried about their future
The BBC highlights the plight of hygienists and therapists who are unable to do procedures that generate aerosol or spray. Lorna McGrath, the Northern Ireland chair of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), said that because dentists have to leave an hour between patients, they have cancelled hygiene services so the dentists can use the hygienists' rooms to see patients. "Many have had their hours reduced or are being asked to work different hours. For a lot of dental practices, it just isn't viable to offer a hygiene service at the moment." The BSDHT said it had tried to open a line of communication with the acting chief dental officer Michael Donaldson so it could raise these issues but it hadn't received a response. "It's very unfortunate that the acting chief dental officer hasn't responded to our request for a meeting," Ms McGrath said. In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said that "due to the sheer complexity of the issues facing dentistry, and the enormous amount of correspondence being received, the only dental representative organisation DoH has been dealing with is the British Dental Association (BDA)". "The department recognises the BDA do not represent dental hygienists or therapists. If the BSDHT were to outline their current issues in a letter, the department would endeavour to address these and give consideration to a meeting if that was felt to be helpful."

Wednesday 5 August

BBC Radio Suffolk: NHS access problem is down to the government not funding enough care 
This morning, the presenter of BBC Radio Suffolk, Mark Murphy encouraged listeners to contact the programme if their dental charges have gone up since lockdown. He said one person had phoned in to say she was shocked that she was asked to pay £190 when it was only £59 the last time she had this [the nature of the treatment was unclear]. He quoted another case where he said the price for an extraction had almost quadrupled to £250, and asked how people could afford this when they are being made redundant or are coming out of furlough. He spoke to the practice owner who explained that to fallow the surgery meant that a treatment that might have taken 30 minutes to finish before lockdown would now take up an hour and 30 minutes of surgery time because the room has to be left empty when they can’t treat another patient. He said everyone is having to pay a bit more because we can’t see as many patients as we did.
The presenter also asked BDA chair of the Suffolk branch, Hannah Woolnough, why dental charges have gone up. She explained that it was down to a number of issues, not just the higher PPE charges, but the big issue was the hour’s fallow time which she explained in detail. She said that NHS charges were fixed at national level, while on private basis, dentists may charge this to cover their costs, though not all will, some will absorb these but the difficult thing is how long this [covid] goes on. In the practice where Hannah is based, she said they have absorbed the cost, but if it goes on for a year or two they may have to increase prices to stay viable. She highlighted that dental practices are small businesses and profit margins are very tight. Hannah said it’s a given that dentists aren’t making money now but they have to generate enough money to open the doors, to pay the nurses, the receptionist, the PPE suppliers, so they can see a patient in the first place.  We have seen businesses go bankrupt and we will see more, so this isn’t a frivolous issue in dentistry, we could be facing permanent closure for some practices.

The presenter said it was also a serious issue for people who couldn’t afford treatment. It’s a tough world out there, he said, and people were being made redundant on a daily basis and asked Hannah if there is a danger that these people were being priced out of having dental care, because you can’t find an NHS dentist. Hannah explained that the NHS access problem was down to the government not funding enough care for the population and an unworkable contract, and private care makes up some of the difference but it’s not always a choice for patients. “If the government funding worked well, we wouldn’t have an issue with access”, Hannah said. ”We at the BDA are working very hard to get changes to the way the NHS runs so that patients can see an NHS dentist if they need to.” 


Listen from approx. 8.15 


BBC Radio Leicester: Can I get a dental appointment? Yes, but....

The presenter of Breakfast on BBC Radio Leicester, Jimmy Carpenter, asked Philip Martin, BDA chair of the East Midlands branch, if it was possible to see the dentist now that we have come out of lockdown, and given the way dentists have been severely restricted through the pandemic. Peter said it has been difficult since March, and just as things had started to improve we had to go back into lockdown in Leicester, which hasn’t helped. The presenter wondered if many people struggled with dental problems. Philip said lots of people had quite severe problems since March, and he explained that during the national lockdown dentists weren’t able to see patients at all. He said that dentists were only able to prescribe treatments over the phone or refer them on to a specialist centre. When pressed whether he thought everyone got the treatment they needed during lockdown, Philip said he hoped that most people had or got relief [from their symptoms]’
He was also asked how severe a problem has to be before you can get a dental appointment, and did he have to put some people off?  Philip said that he had, and explained that some issues such as a filing or a crown falling out are not classified as urgent, if there is no discomfort or pain. In this case, the patient would be told that to keep the area clean, that their case wasn’t urgent and their appointment would be postponed. When asked if he had come across people taking a pliers to their teeth to extract them, Philip said he personally hadn’t but thought that some of the issue was that people presumed they wouldn’t get an appointment and therefore didn’t really try to make one. When pressed again when people would be able to get a routine appointment, Philip cautioned that this wouldn’t be for a while yet.  We are going to be operating under very reduced capacity, he explained, because of all the additional requirements created by covid and there was a catching up period to see people who had their treatment interrupted before lockdown. When asked about dentists charging for PPE, Philip explained that NHS dentists would not because there is a standard fee, while it was up to dentists in the private sector whether they charged for the escalating costs of PPE.

Listen from 7.15.


Thursday 6 August

BBC Radio Suffolk: Increased running costs push private practices to the edge
Hannah Woolnough, BDA chair of English Council, was interviewed yesterday on the Breakfast programme on BBC Radio Suffolk, on patient charges, PPE and the plight of dentists working under pandemic regulations (as summarised in our news reports on 5 August). Following this, the news bulletins at 12.00 and 13.00 on BBC Radio Suffolk quoted the British Dental Association in connection with the union’s concerns that some private dental practices are at risk of closure because of the increased running costs. These also cited the BDA on the issue of PPE charges: the BDA reiterated that dentists are not profiteering from the crisis.

Not available online


Friday 7 August, 2020

BBC Radio Berkshire: Normal dentistry will resume when the country is on level 2 covid alert
When will dentistry go back to being normal? When will access improve for patients, and where do people go if they need care that involves an aerosol or if they are on a cocktail of painkillers until they can access the treatment they need. These were the issues raised this morning on the Andrew Peach programme, BBC Radio Berkshire.  When asked by the presenter at 8.45am whether dentists need more guidance, BDA board member, Paul Woodhouse, explained that not getting the advice they need in a timely manner is the problem.  He said that dentists only received the guidance on the procedures that they were expected to follow, just three days before practices were due to reopen on Monday 8th June. Paul clarified that the last minute advice that dentists received wasn’t three working days before, but the weekend before they were due to open, which led to a mad scramble to get everything together to tick the boxes set by NHS England. The presenter said there was a lot of confusion, even among dentists she had spoken to, as to when ‘normal’ dentistry might resume, and she wondered if Paul could shed light on this. Paul explained that the type of PPE [and decontamination measures] required by dentists was dictated by the level of covid alert in the country.  “We’re at level 3,” he said, “which means we have to maintain social distancing, the fallow period, and the high level of PPE but as soon as this drops to level 2 [the number of cases and transmission are low] then all these rules go out the window, and we can go back to using the standard PPE, pre-Covid, with the same rigorous infection control that we used back in January and February. This will allow us get back to our normal levels of productivity and we’ll be able to get more patients in and dealt with, Paul said.

Not available on BBC Sounds at time of writing.