NHS North West – COVID-19: Provision of dental services

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As we enter a second national lockdown, we wanted to provide an update on the provision of dental services across the North West.  Access to dental care will remain throughout the second national lockdown (5 Nov – 2 Dec 2020).  In line with the public health measures announced by the Prime Minister on 31 October travel for healthcare, including access to dental care, is permitted. 

Following the national lockdown earlier in the year, there are now well-established routes in place for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to dental practices. 

As a frontline service, the intention is for primary dental care practices to remain open for face-to-face care. This includes delivery of both urgent and routine treatment.

Patients who require access to urgent care, patients at higher risk of oral disease, and patients with outstanding treatment needs that cannot be delayed will all be prioritised for treatment. In addition, dental practices will continue to provide remote consultations with triage and advice as necessary alongside face-to-face appointments.

In the interest of public and patient safely, practices may need to close for a short period, this could be because of workforce challenges or as a result of contact tracing.

Practices are maximising the availability of appointments for patients thanks to additional personal protective equipment (PPE), increased infection prevention and control (IPC) requirements, and current national guidance relating to social distancing measures.

Practices are being asked to  prioritise care for high risk patients, the completion of pre-COVID treatment plans, whilst maintaining capacity for unscheduled and scheduled care where appropriate.

The messages in this document aim to inform stakeholders and the public about the restoration of dental services in order to reassure them that dental services are available, while managing their expectations about the services they will receive.

Key messages:

  • All dental practices are following guidance collaboratively prepared and issued jointly by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, to resume face-to-face care as rapidly as practicable, while ensuring the safety of patients and staff.
  • If your local dental practice has to close for any reason, patients will be advised by the dental practice of how to access emergency and urgent dental care until face-to-face care is available again.
  • For all face-to-face care, increased infection prevention and control guidance, and new personal protective equipment requirements will be followed to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
  • Due to the personal protective equipment requirements and infection protection and control measures, some dental practices are currently unable to see as many patients as before the pandemic.
  • North West dental commissioners are working with Local Dental Committees, dental networks and dental practices across the region to monitor the safe restoration of dental provision.
  • Dental practices will prioritise patients with urgent dental needs including:
  • Those who require completion of temporary treatment which was carried out as an emergency
  • patients who have been taking painkillers and antibiotics   and have continued to have dental pain or swelling
  • treatment for patients who are at high risk of dental disease and need regular treatment
  • treatment for patients whose general health affects their oral health such as those with diabetes
  • While dental practices work to ensure that those who need dental care most can receive it, they may have to delay your routine examinations and other non-urgent care at this time on referral by a dental practice.

Patient advice messages

  • The priority for dental practices is to ensure public and patient safety. Whilst observing social distancing, you should continue to telephone your practice in the first instance, rather than attending in person without an appointment.
  • When you contact your dental practice, you will be assessed over the phone and may be given advice, medication or a face-to-face appointment if needed.
  • Your practice will look different than normal, as it will be operating in a way that observes COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene rules.
  • The dental team will be wearing different or additional protective equipment than you are used to seeing.
  • Please be patient with dental practice staff. They are working extremely hard to restore dental services and ensure that services are safe for everyone.
  • If you don’t have a usual dentist, you can find one by going to: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist
  • Urgent Dental Centres are not a drop-in service. They are appointment only and appointments are only accessible via referral from a dental practice.
  • Urgent Dental Centres will provide care for people who have an urgent dental need.  Each patient will be assessed based on clinical need.

If you are in pain or you have noticed other changes inside your mouth such as a white patch, red patch, a lump or an ulcer that won’t heal and need support please phone your usual dental practice. If you do not have a regular dentist please contact the local dental helpline.

  • Greater Manchester: 0333 332 3800
  • Cheshire and Merseyside: 0161 476 9651
  • Lancashire: 0300 1234 010
  • South Cumbria: 01539 716 822

What to do if you have a dental problem during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you have a dental issue during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that you know how to access help when you need it. 

All dental practices in the North West are now open and have resumed face-to-face care. Due to the requirements around personal protective equipment and infection protection and control measures all dental practices are currently unable to see as many patients as before and may not yet be able to offer the full range of services due to increased infection, prevention and control measures.

Some dental practices may be required to close if the staff are required to self-isolate. In this case, patients will be advised by the dental practice of how to access emergency and urgent dental care until face-to-face care is available again.

If you need dental help or advice, please contact your dental practice over the phone first, rather than in person.  You will be assessed over the phone and may be given advice, medication or a face-to-face appointment if needed.

Your practice will look different than normal, as it will be operating in a way that observes COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene rules as part of measures taken to ensure your safety and that of the dental team. For all face-to-face care, infection prevention and control measures and personal protective equipment requirements are in place to ensure patient and staff safety.

Patients who require completion of pre-COVID-19 treatment plans will be prioritised alongside high-risk patients and children.

Urgent dental services have been established across the region for patients and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic and they are continuing to see and treat patients on referral by  a dentist who may not offer specific treatments.

If you are in pain or in need of support, help or advice, please telephone your dental practice in the usual way. 

If you don’t have a usual dentist and you have an urgent need you can call your local dental helpline:

  • Greater Manchester: 0333 332 3800
  • Cheshire and Merseyside: 0161 476 9651
  • Lancashire: 0300 1234 010
  • South Cumbria: 01539 716 822

You will be assessed and given advice over the phone, which may result in a remote consultation with a dentist or a face-to-face appointment.

To support NHS services, it is important that you do not visit hospitals or doctors’ surgeries with dental problems.


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