There will be no return to ‘business as usual’ for dentistry, poll reveals

05 June 2020
3 min read
Published:

That's according to the British Dental Association (BDA) in a poll of 2,000 practices in England.

It reveals:

  • The majority (over 60%) of dental practices estimate they will be able to treat less than quarter of the patient numbers they saw pre-COVID.
  • Barely 15% are in position to offer a full range of treatment, with capacity to offer Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs), using high speed instruments that constitute the majority of activity.
  • Key drivers include PPE shortages, with only 1/3 of practices having PPE to hand to provide face-to-face care, and only 25% reporting they have been fit tested to use them.
  • Dentists have also indicated other barriers with a high impact on their plans for reopening, including emerging from cash flow problems (78%), difficulties getting practices ready for social distancing (63%), and access to childcare (40%) - where failure to offer necessary clarity on their key worker status has seen children turned away from schools and nurseries

While over 80% of practices expect to reopen to some level by the end of June, major constraints will remain on the service. Decontamination and social distancing policies mean longer treatment slots, with surgeries sometimes sitting fallow between patients – leaving many practices unable to maintain their financial viability in the face of fewer patients and higher costs. 

The BDA has said these grim findings underline the need for support from government. It has called for immediate clarification on key worker status for dental team members, and action on PPE supplies.

Dental practices are among the only businesses on the high street still paying business rates, with even the bookmakers receiving rates relief. Sector leaders have also called for vital support like the furlough scheme – that 80% of practices have made use of – not to be pulled away prematurely when levels of clinical activity remain so low. 

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: 'Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service. Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand. Dentists returning to work still lack the support offered to our neighbours on the high street, and even clarity on key worker status when it comes to childcare. Ministers must change tack if dentistry is going to survive the new normal.”

BDA poll of dental practices in England. 2053 respondents (over a fifth of the estimated total of 10,000 practices). Fieldwork 1-4 June 2020.

When do you anticipate your practice will reopen for face-to-face patient care?

On Monday 8 June 2020

35.88%

Later in the week commencing Monday 8 June 2020

15.58%

In the week commencing Monday 15 June 2020

15.97%

Later in June 2020

14.80%

In July 2020

7.84%

Later this year

1.51%

My practice will not be reopening

0.39%

Don’t know

8.03%

 

If 100% represents typical levels of activity at your practice prior to March 2020, please estimate your anticipated capacity upon reopening

100% - My practice will likely be operating at the same capacity it did pre COVID

0.20%

75-99% - My practice will likely be operating between 3/4 and full pre COVID capacity

0.98%

51-74% - My practice will likely be operating between 1/2 and 3/4 of pre COVID capacity

4.24%

50% - My practice will likely be operating at half the levels of capacity it did pre COVID

7.80%

26-49% - My practice will likely be operating between 1/4 and 1/2 of its pre COVID capacity

22.63%

1-25% - My practice will likely be operating at up to 1/4 of pre COVID capacity

60.98%

0% - My practice will not be operating

0.63%

Don't know

2.54%


Do you currently have the necessary PPE to resume face-to-face care at your practice?

Yes

35.02%

 

No

60.25%

 

Don't Know

4.72%

 


Have you been able to secure fit testing for relevant PPE?

Yes

25.57%

No

71.51%

Don't Know

2.92%

 

Which of the following would you say are major obstacles to reopening your dental practice or practices and how much impact would you expect those obstacles will have on reopening your business?

 

No opinion

No impact

Slight impact

Considerable impact

Great impact

Net High impact

PPE availability

0.10%

1.40%

7.20%

21.20%

70.10%

91.30%

Staff availability

0.60%

25.40%

33.60%

27.00%

13.50%

40.50%

Childcare availability

4.00%

26.60%

29.40%

23.40%

16.60%

40.00%

Adapting the practice to meet social distancing requirements (eg: changes to waiting areas, Perspex screens, etc)

0.20%

6.80%

29.90%

35.90%

27.10%

63.00%

Development of new standard operating procedures for the practice

0.20%

3.00%

13.10%

35.70%

48.00%

83.70%

Financial/cash flow problems

0.90%

5.10%

16.30%

25.20%

52.50%

77.70%

 

Do you anticipate being able to offer Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs) to patients immediately upon reopening?

Yes

15.29%

No

72.20%

Don't know

12.51%