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In the news week commencing 31 August 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 31 August.

Friday 4 September

Millions of dental appointments missed during lockdown

The BBC Radio Derby’s Sally Pepper show held a discussion about the report from the British Dental Association that millions of dental appointments were missed during the covid-19 lockdown. Lisa and Vanessa Craven, two sisters who are also both dentists, joined the programme to discuss the backlog of dental appointments and the challenges facing dentists and their patients, due to the pandemic. They noted that the missed appointments mean that certain dental problems may have become worse, due to lack of treatment. The discussion also touched on the dangers that dentist face, with such close contact to dental patients, and the extensive nature of the personal protective equipment dentists now use for treatments, to protect themselves and their patients. Patients were urged to re-book their appointments as soon as possible.


Listen from 2:18:42

Patient access across England has "fallen off a cliff" since March, warns the BDA

Several news outlets in England continue to highlight the BDA’s warning that patient access to dental care across England has "fallen off a cliff" since March, leaving tens of millions of patients unable to get NHS care. These point out that between the end of March and the end of June, the number of adults seen by dentists across England in the last two years fell by 4 per cent, from 21.8million to 21.0million. They also highlight the BDA’s concern that the latest statistics do not fully show the "unprecedented fall in access" driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. It said FoI requests indicated access to the urgent dental care network was just over 2 per cent of the normal level of activity, and recent surveys suggest the overwhelming majority of practices are still operating at less than a quarter of their former capacity. The dental trade union added that 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. Dave Cottam, chair of the BDA's general dental practice committee, said: "This is data is from another era. Since March patient access has fallen off a cliff, and there is no certainty when or if it can be restored. Access was in a bad place pre-pandemic. We should lament how few children and adults made it to an NHS dentist last year, but the real question now is how we can even bring the service back to these levels. We have practices struggling, and tens of millions of patients need somewhere to go. We need government to work with us to rebuild capacity."


A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "Children’s oral health in England is among the best in the world, and in the last year more than 7 million children have been seen by a dentist, with more than three quarters having no decayed, missing or filled teeth by the age of five.

Milton Keynes Citizen - NHS dental check ups in Milton Keynes dropped significantly during lockdown

Clacton Gazette - Patient access to dentists has 'fallen off a cliff'


How long must we wait for reform of NI health and social care?

At the beginning of June, Northern Irish Health Minister Robin Swann launched his Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. Acknowledging that the health and social care system was in very serious difficulties long before the pandemic, he stressed that the virus had multiplied the challenges and pressures. But this document is about the first steps to recovery from the immediate crisis. It is not a detailed and comprehensive strategy for addressing the longer-term problems the virus exacerbated. It says relatively little about waiting lists, other than ordering trusts to create rolling three-month plans to increase the volume of treatment after historic slowdowns. The same is true for Northern Ireland's many other fundamental issues: workforce planning, social care reform, technological advancements and the need to focus on prevention.



Thursday 3 September

ADG research claims 7.6% of households have tried pulling their own teeth

Millions of people attempted DIY dentistry including extractions during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the findings of a poll highlighted in the Times today. The research found that people had tried to treat a cavity themselves in 7.9 per cent of households, while 7.6 per cent had attempted to remove a tooth. Someone in 12.7 per cent of households had taken painkillers for tooth or gum pain, according to the survey of 2,000 adults by Opinium and released by the Association of Dental Groups. Neil Carmichael, chairman of the association, said: "Pulling your own teeth out is rarely a good idea as it can damage the surrounding teeth and lead to long-term problems. These findings suggest that when routine appointments restart, dentists across the country should brace themselves for an oral health horror show. "All of the signs are that dentists will be called upon to repair the damage caused by broken and knocked out teeth, on top of a host of other oral health problems that lockdown has been storing up."


Meanwhile, the British Dental Association pointed out that dental treatment fell by up to 98 per cent at the height of lockdown.

Not available online

Prioritising coronavirus testing in high-risk areas has led to shortages in others, with some people being asked to drive more than 100 miles for a swab
The government says areas with fewer Covid-19 cases have had their testing capacity reduced to cope with outbreaks elsewhere. But public health experts warn this could miss the start of new spikes.


Meanwhile, a £500m fund to trial a 20-minute saliva test has been unveiled. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that testing was being focused on areas with outbreaks where case numbers were much higher, but the "vast majority" of people could get a test "close to home".


Wednesday 2 September

Millions of people have been doing their own dentistry during lockdown, according to ADG

Sky News reports millions of people have been doing their own dentistry and pulling out their own teeth during the coronavirus lockdown, according to figures from the Association of Dental Groups in the UK.


Note, no further details were available from Sky at the time of writing



Tuesday 1 September

Scotland: You shouldn't use out-of-date masks, says US manufacturer

The Times continues to focus on the millions of protective masks sent to the health service's front line in Scotland after twice having their expiry dates extended, with input from the manufacturers and extensive commentary from BDA. Most recently, dentists in Scotland received deliveries of FFP3 respirators that first expired almost a decade ago. Ministers and officials have insisted that they are safe for use but 3M, the American company, said that filters within the masks "degrade with time" and that the safety performance could not be guaranteed of any respirator that had passed its expiry date.


Paul Cushley, the dental director of NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), said this week said that the masks, which were supplied by the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), had been stored to deal with a potential flu pandemic and had twice been recertified. However, in a statement the BDA said it was not satisfied by NSS's assurances and told its members to reject the Scottish government's free PPE. David McColl, chair of the association's Scottish dental practice committee, said: "We have received test certificates that do not provide firm proof that these masks are fit for purpose. None of the measures in the test certificate achieved a pass, and the manufacturer [3M] has not verified the material or provided clear reassurance that revalidated masks are safe to use. Using masks that have passed their expiry date may present significant risks to patients, dentists and their teams. We have called on NSS to make alternative arrangements for supplying PPE. Scottish ministers need to provide hard proof it offers needed protection to both staff and patients. We know many of you willingly donated your PPE to hospices, pharmacies and hospitals at the onset of this pandemic. In return the Scottish government has offered us out-of-date masks, and no evidence they are safe to use. That is not acceptable."


The first check was carried out by 3M. The second approval, by Inspect, was published online by NHS Scotland but was removed on Thursday. An email, seen by The Times, from Peter Hilton, a senior health and safety adviser at 3M, said: "We do not, typically conduct revalidation of respirators that have gone past their expiry dates as there is a risk that the media has degraded to the point where it no longer meets the required EN-approval. We have only granted life extensions once and that product has now gone past the final expiry date and we would suggest that it should no longer be used." Channel 4 News reported in May that 20.9 million of Britain's 26.3 million pandemic stockpile of respirators were out of date when the virus emerged in the UK. Last month it emerged that thousands of masks were destroyed by Scottish health boards after they were found to be disintegrating. A spokeswoman for 3M said: "PPE owned, issued and used by the NHS is the sole responsibility of NHS Supply Chain, as is any independent testing undertaken by the NHS. Questions would need to be directed to the relevant owner of the product, ie NHS Supply Chain, working for Public Health England. A Department of Health and Social Care official said that stockpiled PPE is stored in optimal conditions and that facemasks were the only equipment to have their expiry dates extended. "The respirators were retested and shown to meet safety standards," he added. "The safety of all frontline health and care staff is always our top priority and any products that are not up to standard are destroyed."