Dentists have spoken out following a webinar hosted by England’s chief dental officer aimed at answering industry questions.
Last Friday, Sara Hurley took to the internet as part of a special COVID-19 webinar that focused on answering the queries and questions being voiced by dentists.
In a one-hour live session, more than 10,000 dental professionals tuned in to listen to Dr Hurley and a variety of associates cover finance, redeployment and urgent care matters.
We’ve spoken to a number of dental professionals to hear their thoughts on what was discussed:
‘Like most of the dental profession, I eagerly tuned in to listen to the chief dental officer looking for answers and compassion. It was fantastic to see so many people online supporting the dental profession. What upset me most was the manner in which it was delivered and the feeling it left us with at the end.
‘I submitted a question in advance of the seminar and to be dismissed with ‘..we have had over 1,500 questions and we will not have time to answer your concerns’ felt hurtful.
‘The world is scared, the profession is in disharmony and to start off chastising your audience is just wrong. The dental profession is looking for a united cohesiveness to help guide us through these uncharted waters.
‘Whether you are in practice, hospital, community, prison service, private or NHS we have similar worries and need a united front. The best outcome of the recent webinar is that it has united the dental profession in its want for change.
‘In the short term we need answers on how our patients can access emergency dental treatment. How can the dental profession can source the correct PPE? We have an army of 130,000 dentists and DCPs wanting to help in some way. Medium term we need to discuss financial support for practices and self-employed people left out of the current government schemes.
‘Longer term also makes me ask what voice do private practices in the UK currently have? I am a BDA member but private practitioners have seemed to be side-lined, but without us the whole system crumbles.
‘We will get through this and be a stronger and more thankful society but we need strong leadership and honest communication at this time. Once this pandemic has passed, we will have huge list of patients needing treatment who will be more engaged with not just their oral health, but their general health.’
‘The dental profession have been placed in an intolerable situation for weeks. In England the publication of Issue 3 Preparedness letter for primary dental care did very little to alleviate deep concerns and distress amongst all dental team members.
‘The need for timely, consistent information during a crisis cannot be underestimated. The announcement of the CDO webinar was a long overdue opportunity to draw the profession together, inform and engage whilst laying the foundations for a spirit of renewed focus. Sadly we did not experience this.
‘Regular short updates to bring the profession together, and recognise our concerns would be a way froward. We appreciate that this is fast moving situation only too well, we are scientists at heart and fully appreciate the knowledge base is evolving, but we are also facing incredible unknowns.
‘Many of us still don’t know how we will pay our bills, will we have to leave our homes and families to work in Nightingale Hospitals, when will we be asked to redeploy? Will our practices survive?
‘Reassurance and empathy are equally as important as hard facts.’
‘The general view is that she’s united us in a way that she didn’t want us to. It wasn’t the most helpful webinar that I’ve ever seen with respect to delivering the information that we crave.
‘Her opening comments focusing on referring a dentist to the GDC wasn’t the most endearing thing to start a webinar with. She seems to think she is exempt from criticism. Even the most powerful leaders in the world accept they will be critiqued on social media. It’s not personal but totally expected for someone in office.
‘There was a lot of conflicting information. Initially, she said that dental practices should use their clinical judgement to carry out non-aerosol procedures if there are no local urgent dental care centres.
But later on in the webinar she said nobody should be carrying out any treatment unless it’s in a designated urgent dental care centre. The CQC had earlier clearly said “shut shop”.
‘I don’t want a referral to the GDC and so I mean what I say respectfully.
‘She dismissed private dentists in a single sentence by saying many of our questions need to be directed at the Department of Health. Yet, it was announced that mixed practices would receive not only NHS assistance but gave guidance on how to furlough staff according to their private income. Why do their private incomes get a mention when it’s the dept of health who cover private dentistry?
‘A little bit of empathy would have gone a long way – the acknowledgement that this is a heart-breaking, difficult situation for everyone and that we need to bear with them during these unprecedented times. But there was none of that
‘I will say that I don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes but I can only comment on what I can see.’
‘When we finally heard that England’s CDO was going to not just send a letter but actually speak to us collectively in a webinar there was much excitement in the profession. This would account for the several thousands who tuned in and to whom the CDO eluded to at the end of the webinar.
‘The expectation was that we would firstly get a reason for the CDO’s silence to soothe our frazzled tempers. Secondly, we wanted a clear and strong indication of where we were headed and what we need to do collectively as a profession.
‘I feel like we got none of that. Instead we got a telling off on how we were using social media to express our concerns. We had to listen to what again came across as a contradictory message on seeing patients for emergency treatment. We got no “new” news especially on the much awaited unveiling of the urgent referral centres.
‘Additionally, private practitioners were made to feel like an outsider. At least, this is what I feel I got from the webinar.
‘I am struggling to find anything positive – I have tried as I feel it is fair to try and see both sides to every situation. If there are dentists out there who saw something positive in the webinar, I have not come across one yet. We have moved from confusion to anger as a profession and are now trying to make some sense of where we are all headed after this crisis is over.
‘I do hope this eventually unifies us rather than creating a bigger divide between dentists across different UK countries and between private and NHS. Time will tell but right now we are having to look within our own ranks for leadership.’
Sara Hurley has been approached for comment.