Scotland’s private dentists reopen
Independent healthcare providers in Scotland, including dentists, have been reminded by the Scottish Government that they should follow the spirit of the country’s route map out of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and support the key public health messages.
In a letter from Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, and Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer, sent on 1 June to independent dental and healthcare care providers, they were told that “progress out of the crisis will not be as quick as any of us would like, but we must move forward at a pace that continues to protect public health.
“If we move too fast, we run the risk of increased infection with the need to return to lockdown, which will have an even greater impact, both socially and economically, than we have already seen.”
The guidance followed a letter from the regulator, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), towards the end of May, indicating they could reopen providing they practised safely, in accordance with regulations, and with the informed consent of patients.
“When you consider the treatment an individual requires, you will obviously need to ensure that you have adequate revised infection control procedures in place and PPE that matches the risk,” said HIS. “In addition, it is essential that you check you have adequate insurance cover.”
Many dentists who carry out private work, whose income has fallen to zero, and who are not covered by the main funding packages put in place by the Scottish and UK Governments, had begun to question how much authority the CDO’s direction on 23 March to suspended all routine dentistry carried with independent healthcare providers.
It prompted Neil Taylor, of Taylor Defence Services, to seek an opinion from senior counsel who stated: “In my view the dictat of the CDO plainly does not, indeed cannot, prohibit the provision of private dentistry in Scotland. However, for obvious reasons – to do with health and safety as well as to do with regulatory requirements – extreme care would need to be taken in such provision.”
The letter from the Clinical Director and CDO said: “You, of course, have a legal duty to comply with the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 as amended, and to not only protect your patients, clients and staff, but also public health more generally. You should be aware that there will still be certain restrictions on movement in the early stages of recovery and we ask that you do not try to persuade service users to travel for healthcare or procedures that are not essential or urgent until the advice changes.”
It added: “Those of you that provide independent clinics, will be aware of the range and diversity of the services provided, from dentistry and GPs, travel clinics and weight management to dermatology, aesthetic treatments and day case surgery. This range and diversity means it is impossible to say that all clinics can re-open in a particular phase. However, we can say that during the early phases the focus should remain on the provision of essential or urgent care.
“We continue to call on your professionalism and clinical judgement about how and when you restart your service, or begin to increase the range of treatments, procedures and care you provide in ways that do not have an adverse impact on the national effort to keep COVID-19 under control.”
NCD and CDO letter:
HIS guidance for reopening independent healthcare services: