The Dentist Magazine.

Official indifference to dentistry leaving service, practitioners and patients at risk

Published: 3/25/2020 12:00:00 AM

The British Dental Association has blasted failure by authorities in England to update clinical advice to reflect the seriousness of the UK’s footing or to set out a support package that threatens the future of NHS dental services.

The BDA and authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all recommended that routine treatments cease and only emergency services are provided, given advice on restricting movement and uncertainty over the safety of both patients and staff. However, current advice in England is still that some regular care can continue, despite the country now being in effective lockdown. Dentists are seeking clarity over which patients can be seen safely with limited availability of protective equipment. Without proper PPE, and protocols there is a disproportionate risk to the safety of patients and dental teams that can no longer be permitted to continue.

Dentists have repeatedly sought assurances that practices in England would receive support through the pandemic, as patient numbers collapse and many practices take the decision to shut down routine care. Policies to support NHS dentistry have been outlined by all other UK nations. Dentists across all four UK nations are remunerated on the basis of activity or the amount of individual treatments performed, and practices are now at risk of financial meltdown as patient care winds down significantly.

Without a safety net the BDA has said patients can have no certainty that dental practices in England will see out the pandemic. NHS practices have been given no assurances from government, private practices are being denied access to wider business backing and individual dentists are mostly self-employed and without the support offered to employed staff. The BDA has described it as a recipe for disaster.

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said, “We are now at a point where it is nigh on impossible to provide routine treatment in dental practices.

"Dentists are being treated with indifference by NHS England and in the absence of official guidance many surgeries across England have followed their colleagues in other parts of the UK in shutting down or moving to deal with emergencies only.

"The impact of making those decisions and doing the right thing is financial uncertainty. We need a safety net in place or thousands of dedicated practices could go to the wall.

“Our patients have been told if they just follow advice and make use of support normal life can resume following this pandemic. Dentists have so far not been given that option.

“Through their collective inaction NHS England and the Department of Health are risking the very future of this service.”