Sara Hurley, chief dental officer England, has provided an update for NHS dental professionals following the recent announcement regarding the government’s move to ‘Plan B’. She also refers to the recent NHS dentistry webinar on IPC and SOP changes.
She wrote, “Yesterday evening the prime minister and chief medical officer updated the nation on the Omicron variant. Dental practices should continue to see patients in line with our infection prevention control guidelines, with the standard operating procedure helping you implement them in practice.
“As we navigate the challenges of Covid-19, dental teams have shown a great ability to continue to adapt to new ways of working and challenges. The flexibility in the new SOP allows you to continue to modify your actions based on what's best for patients and your team's safety. It has been designed this way so we do not have constant changes of guidance – which I know is disruptive.
“Below, we have included the key points teams took away from our webinar last week and the answers to the frequently asked questions you sent in.
“On the webinar, right at the top of the list of things many of you asked about was Omicron. The situation remains that if as new evidence emerges the IPC requirements need to change, the guidance will be updated. In the meantime, you should continue to follow the guidance and SOP and screen for respiratory illness as the best way of protecting your patients, your colleagues and yourselves.
“I urge all members of the dental team to get your Covid-19 vaccine, and booster if you have done so. More information is below.
“The pandemic and well-known structural issues underline the need for dental system reform. But the current situation has reemphasised for me the importance of clinical prioritisation to maximise the available capacity of NHS dentistry, right now. I see it as a deeply moral issue on behalf of patients who are in need of our expert care, especially for those in urgent need.
“A key component of clinical prioritisation is following NICE guidelines on check-ups. It isn't just a contractual requirement to follow them (as it has been for many years), it’s a professional responsibility – and right now it is of critical clinical necessity. We can't accept the situation where patients who don't need a check-up are being prioritised over those who need an appointment. That's not who we are.
“Finally, if you are a dentist please do fill in the England Dental Working Patterns Survey, which is a new survey NHS England has produced to help better understand your views on the challenges presented by the pandemic and the extent to which the measures put in place have helped you.”
Vaccination as a condition of deployment: guidance and resources
In the update, Sara also addresses mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers. She explains, “On the webinar many of you had questions about vaccination as a condition of deployment. The announcement was made by the government that individuals undertaking CQC regulated activities in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no later than April 1, 2022, to protect patients, regardless of their employer, including secondary and primary care. The regulations will apply equally across the public (NHS) and independent health sector.
“Since then, NHS England wrote to all dental practices on December 6 with more detail about how this requirement will work. We have also published the following to assist employers:
- Guidance for employers in healthcare in England: Phase 1: Planning and Preparation (6 December).
- Resources available for engaging and communicating with staff to increase vaccination uptake.
“Please note this is iterative guidance which will be reviewed regularly to ensure any legislative changes are reflected, and feedback and queries from colleagues across the healthcare system are considered.”