£7.5m funding for red band hand pieces announced
The Scottish Government has announced that it is making £7.5m available to the profession for the purchase of electric motors and speed increasing ‘red band’ hand pieces.
News of the grant came in a letter to NHS dentists from Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary, on Friday formally announcing implementation of the Government’s 100 day commitment to end the NHS patient charge for all young people, aged 18 to 25 inclusive.
Mr Yousaf said: “The Government is clear that patients wish to access their dentist for routine appointments but recognises that the sector is not at present near pre-pandemic ‘business as usual’.
“We are supporting the sector to recover and build back pre-pandemic capacity through the provision of £5m funding to improve surgery ventilation. Additionally, the Government will allocate a further £7.5m to the sector for the purchase of electric motors and speed increasing ‘red band’ handpieces.
“These can be used in a wide range of clinical procedures where standard non-AGP precautions may be applied as they can produce minimal aerosol.”
One early adopter of red band handpieces is John Denham, co-owner of Platt & Common in Stirling. He told Scottish Dental: “Following my master’s summer school at Edinburgh Dental Institute in June, we decided to trial some speed increasing red ring electric handpieces.
“The EDI has large open clinics with little chance of achieving 10 ACHs and so has moved away from creating aerosols in the first place to using electric handpieces at less than 60,000rpm [as recommended in NHS Scotland’s Moving towards a return to routine dental care1].
“These handpieces do not require air and so there is no mixing of air and water. No aerosol means no requirement for fallow time, enhanced PPE or extended surgery cleaning. Patients can be seen in normal times and more importantly in the same surgery back-to-back. They really are a game-changer.”
Mr Yousaf said that details on how practices can apply for the additional funding will be made available in the next few weeks.
He added: “The Government is in urgent four-nations discussions on IPC [infection prevention and control] measures and we expect further guidance at the end of next month. The Government understands that fallow times continue to add to the backlog and pressures that dentists are facing, and that is why we are keen to engage with the sector to see how we can assist.”
Updated 7 September: The Scottish Government s released further details regarding the grant. Practices can make a single, retrospective claim related to the purchase, renewal or upgrade of up to three electric speed adjusting hand pieces and/or an electric motor, which can allow the handpiece to be operated at speeds of less than 60,000 rpm per surgery.
The payment is up to a maximum allowance of £2,500 per surgery, depending on the practices’ NHS commitment percentage. Claims can only be accepted for expenditure that occurred during the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022. NHS Boards will provide instruction to practices on their local processes for making a claim. Members have already raised a number of queries about this funding, which we have relayed to the Government.
The British Dental Association said: “Although extra support and funding for general dental services is welcome, we call on the Scottish Government to communicate clearly that the introduction of this grant does not signal a return to business as usual. Patients should be aware that practices still have COVID-related protocols to follow and continue to see only a fraction of pre-pandemic patient numbers.”