Routine dental treatment significantly reduced, as service faces uncertain future
20 March 2020
The British Dental Association (BDA) has responded to new guidelines on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak which probably spells the end of most routine care in England, lamenting the absence of any current safety net to support services through this crisis.
While emergency care will continue, new NHS England guidance effectively means most routine treatment which involves ‘aerosol’ generating procedures will end. While not ruling them out the NHS England now advises avoiding all aerosol generating procedures wherever possible.
England is the last UK nation to provide up to date clinical guidance following the declaration of the pandemic, and the ramping up of the official response. Many practices across England have already suspended non-urgent care unilaterally in the face of equipment shortages and concerns around safety of both staff and patients.
With patient numbers already in freefall, guidance has been published without clarity on the shape of any rescue package to maintain the financial viability of practices in England through this crisis. Other UK nations have begun setting out financial mitigation plans, and have stated aspirations to preserve the same levels of patient access when the pandemic ends. Talks continue with NHS England to identify what help might be provided for dentists and their teams.
British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said:
“We are likely to see the end of routine dentistry as we know it. The question of whether or not normal service ever resumes rests entirely with Government.
“From fillings to scale and polish, the vast majority of procedures are unlikely to be an option for most patients. Many colleagues have already had to make this difficult choice in the absence of up to date guidance.
“Our priority is keeping patients and staff safe, but now all practices face a deeply uncertain future.
“The challenge facing every dentist, whether providing NHS or private care, is keeping this service afloat. We needed a safety net, but to date we have been offered little more than warm words.”