Advisory guidelines have been published by authorities in dentistry to help practices around the country when they begin reopening after lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
The authors of the document do stress that it should not be construed as being definitive or authoritative, but rather a means of sharing views and best practices, and that it should be recognised that advice and guidelines relating to public health change regularly and this should always be taken into consideration.
Advice includes making sure that communication with patients is strong, with patient and dental team confidence and reassurance a significant factor in the return to work.
Send consistent messaging out to all patients, letting them know what you’re doing to prevent transmission and protect them, as well as an understanding on COVID-19 to prevent misinformation.
Another step for dental practices to perhaps take is to prioritise adoption of telemedicine and remote consultation, making use of online channels. And thinking about the patient journey was also suggested, including remote diagnostics, pre-visit triage measures and protocols.
You may also want to consider implementing the likes of hand sanitiser dispensers at receptions and in waiting areas, and requiring patients to wear masks on entering the clinic and while there, only removing them when with the dentist.
The installation of screens at reception or other additional protection for residents is also a possibility, as well as requiring staff to wear additional protective items. You may also consider it necessary to equip your receptionists with temperature cameras and any patients that have a raised temperature could have their appointment rescheduled.
In terms of practice management, advice includes staggering appointments to minimise congestion in the clinic, specific sessions for higher risk patients and splitting the dental team up to work a shift pattern, extending work hours to reduce whole team exposure and the number of patients at one time.
Recent figures from the British Dental Association (BDA) revealed that since routine care was suspended, 71.5 per cent of practices say they would only be able to remain financially sustainable for three months or less.
The study also found that 26 per cent of practices say they’ve tried to secure an interruption loan but 93.4 per cent were unable to secure credit. And of those that failed, 46.7 per cent said they had to take out commercial loans in order to keep head above water.
Chair of the BDA Mick Armstrong said that it was the right move to suspend all non-urgent care but the UK’s dental services need meaningful support, with no practice excluded from this – otherwise they face decimation.
Industry leaders also issued a call for the full rates relief offered to retail and hospitality businesses to include all high street practices.
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