Northern Ireland: Revised operational guidance issued
22 October 2020
Revised operational guidance has been published following the SDCEP rapid review of COVID-19 and aerosol-generating procedures. Acting Chief Dental Officer, Michael Donaldson, has written to the profession to outline the changes made.
We welcome the possibility of reduced fallow times. However, a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity should not be expected due to fallow times remaining, social distancing measures, and the physical demands of working under level 2 PPE. This is not a silver bullet.
Our members of the GDS Re-establishment Group have urged local policy-makers to be measured in their expectations of how the revised guidance should be interpreted:
- There will be a wide variation between practices and surgeries in their existing ability to attain lower fallow-times stated. Government support may be required where building works/installation of equipment are considered necessary under these new restrictions
- A fallow-time of at least 10 minutes looks set to be imposed for the foreseeable future, and represents a new and ongoing restriction on practices
- The wellbeing of dentists and their staff must be front and centre at this time. A theoretically reduced fallow-time may be attainable, but other limiting factors, not least the significant toll of wearing enhanced PPE remain
- Concerns at how this guidance may impact on dentists with surgeries without any natural or mechanical ventilation, and who will be consequently restricted from providing Group A procedures.
We have also made the case that any implications that follow from this guidance, including in the context of future FSS arrangements, must be fully addressed.
Further work on what this new guidance will mean at a practice level is essential. We plan on taking this work forward with the acting Chief Dental Officer in the very near future. An audit of the dental estate in respect of existing ventilation levels would be an important first step to help inform these discussions. We will update you when progress is made.