The onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March saw the closure of all primary dental care services in Peterborough with only two Urgent Dental Care centres operating on a strictly emergency basis.
Since June 8, the Chief Dental Officer of England has allowed limited services to resume, but many people in Peterborough are concerned that primary dental care services are not yet available to them, Peterborough City Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee heard on Tuesday.
David Barter, Head of Commissioning NHS England, and NHS Improvements East of England, addressing the committee members said: “I think that one of the Primary Care Services most affected by COVID-19 has been dental care services.
“The Chief Dental Officer, Sara Hurley, back in March declared that all non-urgent primary care dental activity should cease because dentists work just six inches away from their patient’s airway and with a drill create aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) making matters unsafe for the dental team and the patient.
“Services ceased across England from 25 March until 8 June, when limited services on a case-by-case basis were re-introduced, provided safety standards set by Public Health England and NHS England and Improvement were met with effective PPE.
“Whilst there are social distancing and Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) measures in place, NHS England and NHS Improvement did not expect all NHS practices to open providing a full range of services from 8 June.
“The Chief Dental Officer for England advised the sequencing and scheduling of patients for treatment should take into account: the urgency of needs; the particular unmet needs of vulnerable groups; and, available capacity to undertake activity.”
Tom Norfolk, Local Dental Network, Chair and Lead Dental Practice Advisor NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England, added: “There are 15 NHS Dental Surgeries starting to provide face to face services and one offering advice, analgesics and antibiotics (3As) in Peterborough.
“These surgeries will support the two Urgent Dental Care centres put in place as a response to the initial restrictions in March.
“All surgeries will, as a minimum, be providing remote telephone triage, assessment, pain relief and prescriptions.
“If a practice is open for face to face contact, and they have capacity, they should offer to see any patient within their NHS contract, if this is clinically indicated.
“These practices will provide either Non-Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs) only or Non AGPs and AGPs. All other procedures utilising ultrasonic scalers, high speed drills with associated water spray etc.
“In addition, we have engaged some of these practices to provide urgent oral surgery procedures and some urgent orthodontic procedures.”
Jessica Bendon, Senior Contracts Manager Dental NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England replied: “We acknowledge the suspension of primary care dental services has had an impact on patients’ ability to receive dental care.
“We’re working closely with providers and other stakeholders to achieve the resumption of safe and effective services.
“This will be done in a manner that takes into account limiting factors such as the availability of PPE, shielding patients, BAME members of the workforce and the need for fallow time between appointments to allow the venting and cleaning of surgeries.
“The number of dental practices open at any one time will be subject to change due to a range of factors, ensuring the safety of patients, the public and dental practice staff remains paramount.”
To access primary dental care services patients are being advised to contact their regular NHS dentist.
If they do not have a regular dentist, they can contact any local NHS dental surgery using the NHS Website https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/dentists/
Or, they can contact NHS 111 https://111.nhs.uk/ who will direct them to the appropriate service.