BDA Chair Says Answers About The New SOP “Are In Short Supply”

BDA Chair Says Answers About The New SOP “Are In Short Supply”

The British Dental Association is calling for feedback from dental practitioners on how the pandemic is continuing to impact the delivery of dental services.

The BDA is also keen to understand the impact the pandemic  has had on the wellbeing of dental workers.

The launch of the BDA survey came as Chair Dr Eddie Crouch said answers “Are in short supply” as the newly issued standard operating procedure document is causing confusion for practitioners.

In a post on the BDA website, Dr Crouch wrote “As a new Standard Operating Procedure lands, Omicron and NHS targets remain the elephants in the room.”

Dr Crouch said “Just as a new Standard Operating Procedure arrived for dentists in England, a new and uncharacterised COVID variant was confirmed as present in the UK. In place of universal precautions, the new model places patients on two pathways - based on the likelihood of them carrying respiratory infection.”

“We have long pressed for a roadmap to safely ease COVID restrictions in dentistry. Yet the timing of this move, relaxing many key measures in practice just as Government moves to tighten others in wider society, has left some members struggling with the mixed messages.”

Dr Crouch said that a call for BDA members to put questions to the Chief Dental Officer for England when she hosted a webinar on the new SOP’s last week, “hundreds” of queries were submitted to the BDA regarding safety and practical issues.

Dr Crouch said “While there are many clear responses, on the whole there is a disappointing level of unanswered questions. The most obvious elephants in the room being Omicron and NHS targets.”

The new SOP’s allow dentists to place patients on the respiratory, or non-respiratory pathways depending on the results from patients screening.

But Dr Crouch said “In email after email there were questions about asymptomatic patients - who will not be identified by screening.”

“And answers here are in short supply.”

“We don’t yet have certainty about the symptoms for Omicron, or any idea what proportion of infections are asymptomatic. So, many questioned whether it’s even appropriate to relax precautions, particularly for AGPs,” the BDA Chair said.

As GDPUK reported last week CDO Dr Sara Hurley also said evidence was ‘Still emerging’ regarding Omicron.

Dr Hurley said “Although there have been a few cases identified, there are not enough to be able to be clear about any change in the disease severity or transmissibility in the United Kingdom.”

“I think we also need to be very cautious about projecting the epidemiology observed in South Africa onto the United Kingdom because the populations are so very different.”

Dr Hurley said that the evidence so far suggests that Omicron spreads in exactly the same was as other variants  “So the same principles apply around the routes of transmission with this variant.”

‘Therefore, appropriate risk management and the use of the full range of the proven IPC measures and  protocols are considered to be effective and appropriate.”

Dr Crouch said that the advance triage of patients mentioned by Dr Hurley  would “Place burdens on practices already under huge pressure.”  

“Similarly, we heard about suggestions to book in vulnerable patients first thing and keep a block of appointments for respiratory patients at the end of the day. This is a nice idea on paper but one that - in the face of short notice changes in respiratory status and cancellations - is unlikely to hold together in the real world.”

Dr Crouch said the BDA will be raising the question of supplies with NHS England.

He said that if dentists are still in need of “FFP3 masks or fluid repellent gowns, then they will require guaranteed supplies.”

Dr Crouch pointed out that twice-weekly Lateral Flow Tests need for dental team members were a “Real challenge for larger practices, with no means of ordering in sufficient volumes.”

The BDA Chair also asked “Will air filtration suffice in this brave new world? The simple answer is no. The OCDO was clear that AGPs will require surgeries to have natural or mechanical ventilation. Those without were told to seek ’specialist advice.”

“While that’s clear enough, it only reinforces the need for capital funding across dentistry. England remains the only UK nation yet to offer any support.”

Dr Crouch delivered a blunt message to ministers.

He said “Flexibility is a nice idea, but for those working in NHS dentistry the reality is you can’t do what you feel is appropriate when you’re chasing an imposed target.” 

“The CDO was open at the outset that she could not address contractual issues, beyond stating the fact that nothing will change for quarter three.”

“We are pressing ahead and picking this up directly with new minister Maria Caulfield MP and NHS England.”
“With quarter four less than two months away, members were clear to us they need to see an end to 11th-hour announcements. We simply do not know what capacity this change will unlock, but as we head into winter with respiratory diseases already set to surge there are clear limits.”  

“The CDO stressed no two practices are the same, but we know all are facing the same crude targets.”  

“We want to see members have the freedom to choose to do the right thing for their patients, their teams and themselves.”  

Dr Crouch concluded “This new SOP does not mark a return to ’business as usual’, and dentists will need practical support and clarity to deliver on it.” 

In introducing its online survey, the BDA said  ‘Across the last year the information you have provided has been crucial in enabling us to make your case to government.”

“The evidence you provide will again able us to make informed arguments on your behalf.”

The survey, open to NHS or private practice owners and associates, can be accessed  here.



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