It is now 12 weeks since all dental services were able to resume face to face care. Since the beginning of June 2020, we have seen increasing numbers of dental practices opening for face to face care and we would like to acknowledge all those dental staff who have risen to the various challenges and for their ongoing commitment to patient care.
Current operational situation
In line with NHS guidance, including the recently issued standing operating procedure ( SOP) Transition to Recovery (28 August), all dental practices are now expected to follow the guidance including:
- Being open for face to face care unless there are specific circumstances which prevent this. Any alternative arrangements should be agreed with NHS commissioners and should be in line with the following points:
- To prioritise patients with urgent care needs. NHS England advice is that the sequencing and scheduling of patients should take into account the urgency of needs; the particular unmet needs of vulnerable groups and practices’ available capacity to undertake activity.
- Patients requiring an urgent appointment should be offered the next available slot, whether or not they have been treated on the NHS previously at the practice
- There is an expectation that priority must be given to patients in pain, irrespective of whether they are new patients or not to a practice over the provision of routine dental care.
- The above measures are expected to remain in place regardless of any local lockdown restrictions so patients can be assured that their urgent dental needs will be met.
Impact on patients
Practices are prioritising urgent dental care for those patients who require immediate attention. In addition, they are also prioritising the health and safety of both patients and staff. The nature of the treatments involved means adhering to strict infection control procedures between appointments, this reduces the number of patients that are able to be treated on a daily basis.
The other impact is on those patients wishing to resume their routine dental check-ups and treatments. Practices have been asked to prioritise those patients in urgent or emergency dental need. Therefore, patients requiring routine dental care such as check-ups and scale and polish will inevitably experience longer waiting times.
Current advice on accessing urgent dental advice/treatment
Anyone with an urgent dental issue should telephone their dental practice (or any NHS practice if they don’t have a regular dentist) for advice on what to do next.
They will be triaged first over the telephone. If they need face to face care, they will be given an appointment and encouraged to attend as long as they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms.
Anyone requiring treatment will be given clear instructions by the dental practice on what they need to do prior to their face-to-face appointment and once they get to the practice.
If after telephone triage the clinician decides the issue is not deemed urgent, the patient may be given advice on how to self-manage their dental problem. They will be advised to make contact again if their situation changes
We ask patients to be understanding of the current situation with regards to the prioritisation of those with urgent needs and be respectful of the clinical decision. The dentist is best placed to clinically assess their dental issue. If they are deemed non-urgent, we would ask that they don’t then call 111 for a second opinion leaving 111 staff free to deal with other patients with urgent health issues.