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Leading dental professor calls for unified approach on PPE to avoid postcode lottery

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01 Jun 2020

A leading dental professor is calling on the UK Government to provide greater supply of and clarity around guidance for PPE ahead of dental practices re-opening. 

Phil Taylor, who will shortly take up the role of Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Dental Surgery, has said there is disparity across the regions on the issue of PPE, which may lead to a postcode lottery for patients. 

Following yesterday’s announcement from NHS England that dental surgeries across the country will be allowed to re-open on 8 June, Phil said:

“While I welcome this announcement, it’s absolutely vital that dental practices are prepared for re-opening, which means ensuring they have adequate PPE to ensure patients can receive safe treatment. 

“As a profession, our PPE awareness and practices have been scrupulous for many years, largely due to our response to the HIV crisis.  However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists will have to wear even more enhanced equipment for certain aspects of our work.  This is causing some problems as availability of PPE is already an issue, and can only worsen when more practices return to work.

“As it stands, guidance for dentists on exactly what equipment they should be wearing when they re-open and resume treatment on patients is unclear, with many professional bodies offering differing advice.  Without concrete advice, there will be disparity amongst dental practices, with some practitioners feeling the necessity to wear more advanced PPE than others, when this may not be clinically necessary. 

“Supply of PPE is another big concern.  Many practices already have adequate equipment, but this isn’t the case across the board.  In most regions, dentists have struggled to source enhanced PPE, and without this they won’t be able to re-open. 

“To date, NHS England has not been able to source enough PPE for all dental practitioners, and if all practices re-open on 8 June, the pressure on the supply chain is only going to increase. 

“It’s something the Government needs to take very seriously, both in the short and long term.  This isn’t a problem that’s going to go away overnight. 

“There’s going to be a huge backlog of patients requiring dental work, and in order to encourage them to go to their dentists, we need to make sure they feel safe and confident that their dentist will be wearing the appropriate PPE in order to minimise any risk.  The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will be actively supporting dentists and patients to ensure that dentistry will remain safe for everyone.

“Without clear guidance from the Government, patients will be facing a postcode lottery.  We need a consistent approach across the regions right away.” 

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