10,000 additional appointments ‘available across Scotland’

22 June, 2020 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Dental practices can resume seeing see NHS patients in need of urgent care from today, the Scottish Government confirmed today.

It said that dentists have received guidance and personal protection equipment (PPE) to enable them to provide urgent treatments that do not create an aerosol, under the NHS Scotland remobilisation plan.

The Government’s announcement followed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s update on Thursday last week on the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Dental practices will be able to see NHS patients who are in need of urgent care for face-to-face consultation, using procedures which limit the risk of spread of using coronavirus such as non-aerosol generating procedures,” said Tom Ferris, the Chief Dental Officer (CDO).

“This will mean up to an additional 10,000 appointment slots available per day across Scotland. Dentists and dental teams will be aware of the absolute necessity to ensure patient and staff safety as we move to the next phase, as well as public health more generally.”

The CDO added: “The Scottish Government will continue to fund the NHS financial sustainability measures during this phase.”  

The Scottish Government said in a statement that “transition to later recovery phases for dental practices will be determined by taking a graduated risk-based approach to the type of care and treatment to be made available.

“This will be based on the risk and level of transmission within the community, as determined by the R number and the other factors including the number of cases and wider control measures in place.

“Practices have been working with their NHS Board and Dental Practice Adviser preparing to open, including ensuring the necessary PPE is in place, and they have provided a safe environment for patients and staff members.  PPE has been supplied free of charge to dental practices for NHS patients.

“Aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) are defined as any medical and patient care procedure that results in the production of airborne particles, known as aerosols. These are relevant to COVID-19 transmission, since this may occur via both direct air-borne infection and indirect spread via contact with contaminated surfaces.

“AGPs will continue to be provided in urgent dental care centres (UDCCs).  NHS Health Boards established 56 UDCCs on day one of lockdown and there are now 69 operating across Scotland. In May over 10,000 patients with acute dental problems were treated at urgent care centres and advice was provided to over 20,000 people by telephone.”

However, David McColl, chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “Dentists have been looking forward to welcoming our patients back into our practices, but already we are hearing from colleagues who simply can’t afford to reopen, given the limits of the current Government support package. Without meaningful help increased costs and lower patient numbers could prove fatal for practices across Scotland.”

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