It’s been a while since we posted and frustratingly not much has changed in terms of the limited NHS services we are able to offer patients at this point.
We are fielding a lot of enquiries since the Scottish Government’s latest announcement that the full range of NhS dental services will be resuming from November 1st.
We are awaiting further guidance on this in the coming days, however what is clear is that this will not be a return to any sort of pre-covid normality. This has been confirmed in our latest communication from the Chief Dental Officer.
With the rate of virus transmission increasing in our communities and across Scotland, NHS dental practices still have limited PPE and significantly reduced clinical time available to provide this type of care. It is due in part to the need to have fallow time and increased environmental cleaning after every appointment. We are also required to limit the number of patients in the practice at any one time, to respect social distancing measures and maintain a safe working environment for our staff. Even from November 1st, we are still expected to prioritise NHS emergencies and Urgent Dental Care within the confines of our available PPE and much reduced operational capacity. This uses the lion’s share of our available NHS resources and also means that significant waiting times for routine NHS care are unavoidable.
Recently, we have been contacting patients who’s routine examinations were cancelled to offer them an “Oral Health Check”. Although this is not a full clinical examination, it does allow our dentists to touch base with our patients as well as carry out oral cancer checks, and discuss any problems and concerns that patients may have and what options are available if patients wish to avoid a lengthy wait for care. The Oral Health Check appointments are being offered in chronological order according to when patients examination appointments were cancelled.
Progress in getting through the backlog of patients cancelled is very slow.
We have found that in light of the latest announcements about a return to full NHS care, a number of patients are holding off from attending Oral Health Check appointments in the hope that they will get a full NHS exam and any associated treatment in the near future. Unfortunately this is highly unlikely to be the case. We estimate that we have in the region of 4000 missed examination appointments to reschedule as Oral Health Checks in the coming months. Where as before COVID we could see on average 100-120 NHS patients per day, we are currently being provided with enough PPE to see 10 patients a day for Non Aerosol Generating Procedures including NHS Oral Health Checks. Furthermore, the PPE required to carry out NHS Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP’s) is a much higher level. And we are still waiting for the NHS to provide this equipment and to arrange fit testing for all our staff. In summary, all of the above means that we can only offer about 10-20% of our pre-COVID levels of NHS appointments each day.
We are desperately awaiting guidance for the next phase of NHS Care and once we have had time to read, analyse and prepare for this we will do our very best to begin working through the huge backlog.
We appreciate your support through these incredibly difficult times and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.