9. Should I screen staff for COVID-19?
We recommend you consider implementing a daily health screening check point and log for all employees entering the workplace. Our daily screening log can be used to document this. Dental staff should pay special attention to their own symptoms and stay home or be sent home immediately with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat, headache and muscle soreness, which may be accompanied by nasal symptoms).
This is one of the many steps we recommend practices take to ensure they are operating as safety as possible for staff and patients. Members should see our toolkit on returning to face-to-face care for a comprehensive overview of the practical steps we recommend.
10. What about staff returning from abroad?
The government has said that no travel is “risk-free” during the pandemic and that people returning from some countries should self-isolate for two weeks.
People arriving from exempt countries do not need to self-isolate. There is a
list of exempt countries on the gov.uk website . Please note, this list changes regularly.
Our advice is to check whether you are returning from one of the
countries which are exempt from the quarantine guidelines . If you are in Scotland, please refer to the
specific advice from the Scottish Government (Northern Ireland
and Wales currently follow the same guidelines as England). If the country is not on the exempt list, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Please note, SSP is not payable for staff self-isolating after returning from holiday.
Staff in these circumstances who have to isolate should either be on paid holiday (if the member of staff has paid holiday to take) or unpaid leave. Whether it is paid or unpaid leave should be subject to agreement between the parties.
11. Who should self-isolate and what should they do?
Dentists and their teams will be providing emergency care should follow government guidance on whether it's safe for them to do so .
We believe members of the dental team over 70 years of age should stay at home.
Members of the dental team under the age of 70, but with an underlying health condition (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), are at increased risk. Guidance says people in this category can go to work, but they should stay at home as much as possible. People in this category should not be forced to return to work in a dental practice. The risks should be assessed in each case. The risks can be reduced if there is space in the practice to maintain social distancing and/or if people with increased risk can avoid taking part in AGPs.
We invite pregnant members of the dental team to see our advice on pregnancy and COVID-19 below.
Other members of the dental team who have queries about contact tracing and self-isolation should review our advice above.
12. What if I'm pregnant?
We have been gathering and reviewing published guidance from various sources, UK and international, including
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
Unfortunately, it is still a relatively new airborne virus and the world-wide medical profession does not have the evidence it would like to have in order to understand the virus and all its effect – however, this is the best advice we can give with the information available at the time of writing.
Firstly, it should be noted that the advice that others, such as RCOG, and we are giving has changed; this is because of a better understanding of the effects of coronavirus and because of the change in the number of people infected: the number of hospital admissions and the number of deaths are substantially lower than they were during the height of the pandemic in March and April 2020.
Suffice to say that the evidence is that pregnant people of any gestation with no underlying health issues are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health.
If staff follow correct procedures and wear appropriate PPE, we believe that the dental environment is a relatively safe one and that pregnant members of the dental team can continue to work safely. We now have established Standard Operating Procedures and a good supply of PPE which gives members of the dental team substantial protection against catching coronavirus.
As you know, health and safety regulations require employers to remove additional risks particular to pregnant colleagues, such as exposure to x-ray radiation; these regulations also require employers to remove risks of catching communicable diseases, such as coronavirus, where these risks are higher in the workplace.
As such, the level of risk of catching coronavirus at work must be viewed in relation to the level to which pregnant team members may be exposed outside the workplace; we believe the risk of catching coronavirus whilst working in the dental practice with good procedures and PPE is no greater than the risk of catching it in the wider environment.
That said, managers and other team members must be mindful of colleagues who are pregnant and follow all practice policies (such as wearing the correct PPE, hand washing and social distancing) to avoid transmission of the virus between team members.
We’ve produced a series of risk assessments for members, to support dentists and their teams to keep safe during this challenging time:
Pregnant - in patient-facing clinical role
Pregnant - in patient-facing administrative role
Pregnant - in non-patient-facing administrative role
Pregnant - in non-patient-facing decontamination/cleaning role
In addition, it also stands to reason that team members who have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste, should not go to work.
First two trimesters
In relation to the first two trimesters, we could find little evidence that those who caught coronavirus in first two trimesters (or their babies) were at any increased risk as a result of the pregnancy.
As such, the advice in relation to anyone in the first two trimesters is that they can continue to work subject to conducting careful risk assessment and having correct PPE.
As far as the third trimester is concerned, for those who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, there is an increased risk of becoming ill should they contract COVID-19 (this is true of any viral illness contracted, such as ‘flu). It should be noted, however, they are just as likely to recover as people who are not pregnant.
That said, guidance states that contracting COVID-19 just before or at the time of birth, would bring substantial challenges to all involved and is best avoided, so the closer the pregnancy gets to the due date, the more the practice should be prepared to show flexibility over the parental leave arrangements.
There should be careful risk assessments for pregnant team members in a patient-facing roles with appropriate arrangements to sufficiently minimise their exposure to the virus, taking into account individual risk factors.
Pregnant self-employed members of the dental team, they do not have the same level of protection and are free to make their own decision as to whether they work or not; that said, we urge members to work together constructively to ensure that risks are kept to a minimum.
13. How can I support ethnic minority staff?
Emerging evidence shows that ethnic minority communities may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Organisations should ensure that line managers are supported to have sensitive and comprehensive conversations with their ethic minority staff. They should identify any underlying health conditions that may increase the risks for them in undertaking their roles. These conversations should also, on an ongoing basis, consider the feelings of affected colleagues, particularly regarding their physical safety and mental health.
It is also important to note in this context, that PPE fit-testing requires men to shave their beards. Men who do not wish to shave their facial hair for religious reasons are currently being advised to wear a PPE hood instead and tuck it into their gown.
14. What do I need to know about redeployment?
Many dentists and dental staff have volunteered for redeployment during the pandemic. Some are working in urgent care settings, or providing remote advice. Others are taking the opportunity to work in different arenas and learn new skills.
We recommend that you read our
financial impact page for more information and use our
Redeployed Duties and Training Log on a daily basis to keep track of your work, as you may need these records later. We also urge members to contact
BDA Health Assured if you find your mental wellbeing is under stress during this challenging time.
When returning to work after redeployment, we recommend you discuss the situation with your practice and reach an agreement on how best to reintegrate.