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Dentists to reopen in less than two weeks but expect very long waits for treatment

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Dentist Fiez Mughal (L) and Dental Nurse Johanna Bartha (R) carry out a procedure on a patient in one of the six surgery rooms at East Village dental practice on May 28, 2020 in London, England. With dental staff facing a greater chance of infection due to airborne COVID-19 particles created during certain procedures, many have been forced to close throughout the lockdown with only emergency procedures still taking place at selected practices. Full PPE must be worn whenever a procedure is expected to involve the creation of airborne contaminants, with each surgery room then left for an hour for them to settle, before a disinfection process takes place. During the average day, around twelve patients will actually be seen by the staff, while over thirty more are assisted over the telephone. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

People have been asked to be patient while dentists get practices back up and running (Picture: Getty)

Dental practices in England will be allowed to reopen in less than two weeks’ time, the chief dental officer has said.

In a letter to all dental practices in England, Sara Hurley said on Thursday that face-to-face care in practices can resume from June 8. However, she added practices will need to have the necessary infection prevention and control requirements in place, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Individual practices will decide when to open and will risk-manage the steps to resume full service, Ms Hurley added.

In the joint letter with Matt Neligan, NHS England director of primary care and system transformation, the chief dental officer wrote: ‘We support the full resumption of routine dental care, in a way that is safe, operationally deliverable and allows dental practices flexibility to do what is best for patients and their teams.’

The chief dental officer said there would be a phased return to pre-pandemic patient numbers due to infection control requirements and patient behaviour.

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.

Dental practices are advised to prioritise patients both with urgent need and from vulnerable groups when resuming services.

The plans were developed in consultation with groups including the British Dental Association (BDA).

The BDA has welcomed the plans but warned that expectations need to be managed, adding that infection control and social distancing could reduce capacity by up to two thirds.

The dental trade union added that the availability of PPE may limit the speed that dental care is restored, with different practices likely to vary.

The BDA has called for the Government to include dentistry in its wider PPE strategy to help a universal return to full dental care, as well as financial support including a business rates holiday.

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: ‘A return of high street dentistry will be welcome news to millions of patients left with few options during lockdown, but key questions remain.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Dentist Fiez Mughal (L) and Dental Nurse Johanna Bartha (R) carry out a procedure on a patient in one of the six surgery rooms at East Village dental practice on May 28, 2020 in London, England. With dental staff facing a greater chance of infection due to airborne COVID-19 particles created during certain procedures, many have been forced to close throughout the lockdown with only emergency procedures still taking place at selected practices. Full PPE must be worn whenever a procedure is expected to involve the creation of airborne contaminants, with each surgery room then left for an hour for them to settle, before a disinfection process takes place. During the average day, around twelve patients will actually be seen by the staff, while over thirty more are assisted over the telephone. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Some dentists have been open for emergency procedures (Picture: Getty)

‘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.

‘Dentist 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 spokesperson said: ‘During this global pandemic, there has been a huge worldwide demand for PPE, and despite this the government has delivered over 1.5 billion 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.’

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