NHS England is telling dental practices across Leicester to use their clinical judgement as to whether they can remain open.
The move comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the first local lockdown in the UK from the 30 June. With ‘10% of all positive cases in the country’ in Leicester, the government says all non-essential shops in the city must shut.
However, NHS England has sent a letter out to dental practices saying they can choose to remain open with additional measures. Measures include:
- Screening of all patients to check if they or any family members have COVID-19 symptoms before attending
- Stringent hand and respiratory hygiene
- Social distancing measures in place for patients and staff
- Appropriate use of PPE in line with government advice
- Infection prevention and control measures.
‘The profession has supported the NHS handling of the response to COVID-19 throughout,’ an NHS letter to dental practices in Leicester says. ‘(This includes) volunteering to work in urgent dental care centres and in other areas of the NHS. Donating PPE to those that needed it and then standing back up with patient and staff safety precautions on 8 June.
‘We are very grateful to them, and have no wish to revert to the pre 8 June widespread dental closures.
‘Instead, we are working with Leicester and Leicestershire dentists so that they can use their own clinical judgement on the additional measures they might want to take.’
‘People in Leicester don’t understand’
The letter reminds dentists that travel restrictions mean nobody should attend dental practices for routine dentistry.
It also points out that those shielding should seek advice by phone of video link only. Urgent dental care centres are available in Leicester for shielding patients if necessary.
Further, NHS England is carrying out a survey with dental practices across Leicestershire. It hopes to understand what is the most appropriate care for practices to offer at this time.
‘We are in one of the hotspots so we have closed our doors again,’ an anonymous dental nurse told Dentistry Online. ‘We are a mixed NHS/private practice and every staff member has had to take a pay cut, including the associates, just to keep the practice afloat.
‘Dentistry always gets left behind, with no clear guidelines as to whether we should stay open or not. It was a team decision that we should revert back to phone triage. We have basic PPE, we haven’t had our fit test yet because the practice cannot source it at present.
‘I’m not sure if the practice will still be here this time next year.
‘People in Leicester don’t understand what the lockdown involves. Most people still continue as if nothing has changed.
‘We have patients, old and new, banging the door expecting us to see them. When patients ring and we explain we cannot have anyone in the practice, they get angry. Then we have to deal with the verbal abuse they throw at us.’