Dentists warn of delays to reopening surgeries after surprise statement
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Don’t expect to be back in the dentist’s chair on Monday week - that was the blunt warning from local surgeries after the government announced dental services could restart from June 8.
The announcement, which came during Boris Johnson’s press conference on Thursday afternoon, caught most dental surgeries unaware – and one Suffolk dentist told us that it would be impossible for most to be able to make themselves safe in time.
He did not want to be identified, but said: “The first we knew about this was when it appeared on the ticker at the bottom of the BBC live coverage of the prime minister’s press conference on Tuesday.” He then found a newly-arrived email from the government in his inbox – but it was dated May 19.
“It’s all very well saying we can open then(on June 8), but I don’t think many of us will be able to. We will have to get our staff back from furlough, train them in new ways of working, get hold of sufficient supplies of PPE and work out new ways of dealing with patients.
“The cost of PPE is an issue – we are all individual businesses, even those of us dealing with NHS patients, and we will need to consider that. If they had said we should open at the end of the month or in mid July that would have given us time, but June 8 will be too soon.
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“What worries me is that while many people will understand the issues we are facing to reopen, some people with a painful tooth will hear this and think they can get treated next week and will end up being disappointed and confused.”
Normal dental work was suspended at the start of the lockdown, with only emergency work being undertaken a special NHS centres. That was only extractions or prescriptions for powerful painkillers.
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The British Dental Association welcomed the plans, but warned that expectations need to be managed.
BDA chairman Mick Armstrong said: “A return of high street dentistry we will be welcome news to millions of patients left with few options during lockdown, but key questions remain. It is right to allow practices to decide themselves when they are ready to open?
“Dentists will be keen to start providing care as soon as safely possible, but we will need everyone to be patient as practices get up and running.
“Dentists can open their doors but won’t be able to provide a full range of care without the necessary kit.
“Longer term, practices can only stay afloat with ongoing support, while social distancing continues and the costs of providing care are sky-high.
“Opening the floodgates risks raising false expectations, unless government is willing to step up and help.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “During this global pandemic, there has been a huge worldwide demand for PPE, and despite this the government has delivered over 1.5billion items of PPE equipment.
“We are working around the clock to ensure frontline healthcare staff – including those at the 500 NHS urgent dental centres – have the PPE they need.
“Dentistry is on the supply priority list and we have established new distribution routes for the sector to ensure continuity of supply across all urgent dental care centres.”