It’s been a few weeks now and I’m sure anyone with a dentist in Harrogate is ready for and update on the current situation regarding COVID-19 and Coppice View, as of 28th May 2020.
Firstly let me apologise if you feel a little ill-informed as to the current position we find ourselves in regarding dentistry (both at Coppice View, and nationally). I can only agree that it is an unacceptable situation and any concerns you may have will in many ways probably parallel my own thoughts on the matter.
The reason you probably feel that you haven’t had any “real information” on the effect of COVID-19 on dentists is because it there still isn’t much “real” info to pass on. There is no historical evidence to support any decision-making in these unprecedented times and so the approach has been one of extreme caution from our regulators.
The Effect of COVID-19 on Harrogate Dentists
You will almost certainly by now have figured out that dental services nationally have been suspended with “UDC’s” (Urgent Dental Centres) having been set up strategically around the country to provide help for those with the most severe problems. It should be made clear that this was a unilateral decision taken at the highest levels without direct consultation with dental practices. Continuing to work would have been a breach of both our regulatory statutes and would have meant working outside of our indemnity cover, rendering us at risk of being removed from the dental register.
There has been a great deal of speculation, hearsay and rumour about how dentistry should be carried out post-COVID-19 and at present (after around 9 weeks) we are only just starting to get to a point where we will be given clearer guidance on how and when we will be permitted to carry out face-to-face treatment.
PPE and Keeping You Safe
Initially there has been a huge shortfall in PPE (personal protective equipment) to be able to see people in what is deemed to be a “safe” way. All supplies had been diverted towards “frontline” services such as hospitals. We are now at the point where supply should start to meet demand so PPE is slowly reappearing, but there has been a great deal of disagreement at the highest level in establishing what level of PPE/protection and what protocols we should be following to ensure the safety of both staff and patients.
It is looking like, in the absence of central guidance for dental practices, we will need to formulate our own protocols, based on careful risk assessment so private practices in general (including ourselves) can create a pathway to opening up. We have begun work on this and have already taken steps to alter the set-up of the practice with coronavirus in mind. This will be based entirely around developing protocols to ensure the absolute safety of both staff and patients.
What is becoming clear is that dentistry in the coming months will look and feel very different to how it did in February. It is likely that we will need to factor in longer down-time in surgeries between each patient, pre-visit screening and a different workflow in order to manage any possible (theoretical or otherwise) risks and to the satisfaction of our regulators (primarily the GDC and CQC, but also to a large part our indemnifiers).
Re-opening our Dental Practice
Our current target for reopening is in around 2 weeks. This is subject to the correct PPE being available and for guidance and authorisation to work again being granted. Initial opening will be for emergency treatment only, with a slow phased return to a new “normal” hopefully over the next couple of months. If you are having problems then please do let us know so we can try to prioritise any forthcoming treatments.
With regards to Denplan, it appears that COVID-19 has caught them out in much the same way as everyone else. They have little more insight than we do at the moment although they are currently working hard to secure PPE for Denplan practices in order that we can open the doors as quickly as possible. If you have a Denplan Care or Essentials plan then they will continue to collect the monthly fee and I would encourage all Denplan patients to think long and hard before considering making any change to this, given the likely increase in dental costs (and thus fees) moving forward, plus the potential increased complexity of resolving any problems that may have arisen during the extended lockdown period.
I very much appreciate your patience and all of your support and hope to give you more positive news about the effect on Harrogate dentists in the next week or so. Further COVID-19 updates will appear here, or on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/CoppiceViewDentalHarrogate