You may have heard that dentists will start to go back to work on Monday 8 June. I wanted you to hear from me as early as possible to let you know what is going on.
Firstly: it was news to us, just like it was for you. I, other dentists and our professional associations had no advance notice of the announcement; we saw it on the BBC, just like many of you have done.
Secondly: SAFETY. It’s our watchword; everything we can and will do will be dictated by the safety of our patients and our staff. Over the last weeks, I have spent many, many hours in discussion with dentists and other experts to work out what we need to do differently to keep you and our staff as safe as possible while giving you the care and treatment you want and need; and to make sure we are properly equipped to do that.
So: I’m afraid we will not just be flinging our doors open to welcome you all – much though I’d love to see you all here.
So, please: if you’ve got an appointment in the diary for June – please, please don’t expect it to be going ahead as booked.
If this includes you, we’ll be contacting you individually to let you know; but this should give you some advance warning.
Once we are seeing patients, we will have to prioritise those we have to see and those we can see; but we will see you all, as soon as possible.
When will that be? Well, there are lots of Ps to sort out first: procedures; PPE; people; premises – and then we can
welcome our patients. Let me say a little bit about each of those.
Procedures: there’s no such thing as “business as usual” now. We have to work out what we can do, and how, and where, and when, and to whom, and for how long – we have no central guidance for this. So – a couple of acronyms here, I’m afraid: we have to re-write our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to take account of everything we have been learning about the new risks, and we will be inviting all our patients to agree that we can see you under the relevant SOP. And when we do see you, you may notice that there are far fewer patients in the practice at one time – in fact, you may well not see or hear another patient at all!
And one of the things that will dictate what we can do to help you is: AGPs. An AGP is an aerosol-generating procedure (that is, anything that can create a fine mist including fluid from inside your mouth). These are seen as a particular concern in relation to spreading the virus. So you are very likely to find that we may be able to see you for non-AGP procedures before we can carry out an AGP procedure on you. You will also notice that we will have additional PPE for AGPs (sorry, there’s another one.)
PPE: our Personal Protective Equipment is there to protect both you and us. You may remember that at the outset of the crisis, dentists were asked to surrender their PPE and other equipment to the NHS. Since then, I have been working hard to get all the equipment we will need to see you for the full range of procedures. We are a founding member of a new buying consortium with purchasing power greater than the biggest corporate practices, and that has certainly helped!
But it’s not straightforward. We need equipment that we have not used before. Some PPE, especially the infamous FFP3 masks, needs to be specially tested to ensure a proper fit, and that itself is a specialist task. (You may have seen the harrowing pictures of hospital doctors who had been wearing those masks for a long time.) Lucy has trained and qualified to do this.
People: you know this already – our people are what makes us special. They have been furloughed, and they have learned this evening’s news at the same time you did. There is a lot that they will have to do before they can welcome you back! They will need to make family and other preparations for returning to work; they will need training in the new procedures; they will need fit-testing and experience with the new PPE; and they will need to get the practice fully ready for you.
Premises: you might remember from our earlier newsletter that we’ve had the builders in. We are very excited about what’s happening.! But the changes are still going on. We need to make sure the practice is not just “back to normal”, but “ready for the new normal”.
Patients: you really are the most important part of all this. Thank you all for your loyalty and your patience. We will see you all, as soon as we can, and I hope you will bear with us. We will continue to communicate with you regularly to let you know what’s happening, and to let you know what the “patient journey” through the practice will look like for you.
But I can give you a little taster:
- We will give you a remote consultation by video call or telephone. This will probably be the first step we can take
to see you again!
- If you are coming in to see us, you can expect to have contact from us in the days before your appointment to
check on your health and to confirm arrangements.
- Once here, your appointment will be phased with others to ensure that there is minimal contact with anyone but
your dentist, and to allow the surgery to be fully cleaned before you enter. You will not be able to use the waiting
- You will be asked to use hand gel and disinfectant mouthwash before you are seen. If you are asked to use any
PPE, we will provide it.
- You will be given a temperature test.
- Your dentist and nurse will be using the new PPE and procedures I’ve mentioned.
Of course, as always, we will talk to you about what’s happening, and discuss any questions you may have.
That’s all for now. We’ll be in touch again soon to keep you up to speed with everything that is happening at the moment; things are moving fast. In the meantime, do please get in touch with us.
Roy Morris Dental Excellence