Dental practices in Scotland were allowed to reopen on June 22, but the British Dental Association (BDA) warns that a combination of higher costs and lower patient numbers could put these practices in jeopardy.
Practices now can offer urgent care that can be provided using non-aerosol generating procedures. Dates for routine care including AGPs are yet to be confirmed. Wholly private practices, which total 23 of the approximately 1,000 practices in Scotland, have been open for weeks.
The BDA expects shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) to place real limits on patient numbers. While authorities recently distributed more than 3 million individual items of PPE to dental practices, the BDA said, volumes are only sufficient to enable practices to see about 10 patients each day.
Practices in England reopened on June 8, though most are now operating at less than a quarter of their former capacity to ensure social distancing and infection control protocols are met, the BDA said. Barely 8% of English practices say they can maintain financial sustainability on this basis, the BDA continued, and long-term support will be needed to keep services in Scotland viable.
The BDA also has pressed Chief Dental Officer (Interim) Tom Ferris to extend key worker status to dentists and their teams once they reopen. Access to childcare has been a major barrier to practices reopening in England, the BDA 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,” said David McColl, chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee.
“Without meaningful help, increased costs and lower patient numbers could prove fatal for practices across Scotland,” said McColl.