The Scottish Government announced it will allow dental practices with registered NHS patients to provide ‘routine’ dental care from 13th of July 2020. Scottish Government have, however, forbidden the use of Aerosol Generating Procedures on NHS patients within dental practices. This involves any treatment using a mix of air and/or water – most of what we do involves aerosols. The Scottish Government have yet to acknowledge that a full examination requires the use of aerosols to enable adequate inspection of your teeth and to plan your treatment properly. As an NHS patient, if you require an aerosol procedure, we will have to refer you to an NHS Dental Hub.
Our clinical staff have been fit tested for enhanced PPE and have undergone further cross infection training to comply with the updated protocols and procedures used in Hubs. This ensures your visit to our practice is safe and reduces the risk for COVID-19 transmission. There is worldwide evidence supporting the safety of routine dental treatment with these measures. The Scottish Government and Health Improvement Scotland also support these measures, therefore allowing us to offer private aerosol treatments in a safe manner.
Subsequently, non-aerosol treatments that we can provide on the NHS are extremely limited; for example, we may extract or patch up a tooth with cement, instead of placing a permanent filling. There is no such restriction on providing aerosol treatments privately in our practice and these treatments are being carried out as normal daily. We were, in fact, given specific instruction by the Scottish Government to offer private treatment as part of your options when consenting to your treatment plan.
The feasibility of patient access to NHS dentistry exists through Government allowances and the hard work of dentists who must treat high numbers of patients each day to remain viable. This model of working is not sustainable as the COVID-19 pandemic allows us initially to see maximum 10 patients per day per practice. We must apply to use a second surgery within the practice. Normal numbers are 20-30 patients per day, per surgery.
The future of NHS dentistry for patients in Scotland is questionable on current levels of support from the Scottish Government. We are grateful that financial assistance was provided during the enforced closures but must hope that they now enhance the level of treatment support financially, to enable us to provide sustainable NHS treatments moving forward. We will continue to correspond with the Scottish Government to express our concerns regarding patient access to NHS dental treatment. The closures and restrictions were imposed without consultation with General Dental Practitioners.
We want you to contact the practice for all your emergency and dental needs but regret that the NHS treatments we provide will be restricted for the reasons stated. We will of course offer you referrals to Hubs/private treatment where appropriate. We have had many NHS patients supporting the concerns above through correspondences with MSPs. We are most grateful for that ongoing support- all help with this campaign is appreciated. We will update you with any changes to the regulations in due course.