Further to my video update on the Website and Facebook, I thought I’d update those of you who didn’t see it with another of my emails.
We’ve now been reopened just over a week, but with a very restricted skeleton team due to the amount of treatment we can actually provide at the moment due to social distancing in the waiting areas, and something called “Fallow Time’ that the ‘Powers-that-be’ have recommended.
Fallow time is basically a period of time after some dental procedures that the treatment room has to be left empty to allow any aerosol to settle before it is then cleaned. This is currently set at 1 hour, so immediately has an impact on the number of our surgeries that can be in use at any one time. In addition, although our levels of cross-infection control were already very high, the cleaning down after such a procedure now takes approximately 10-15 minutes as well. If we add this to the need to keep our teams and our patients socially distanced, it still means that we are not able to operate at our usual capacity. At the moment we are at about 20% of our usual capacity, but this is gradually going to increase as the lockdown restrictions are eased.
We have also increased the level of PPE that we have to wear, and this has increased our costs significantly, especially when looked at per patient per visit. The highest level of PPE worn for what were routine procedures before Covid19 has risen from about £2 per patient to over £40 for the same treatment. Coupled with the increased fallow time when a surgery cannot be used means our overheads have risen dramatically. Some dental practices have therefore introduced a separate charge for the PPE.
I want to take this opportunity to reassure our regular Practiceplan patients that we have NO PLANS at the moment to introduce a charge for the extra PPE now needed, and the increased time taken. I am hopeful that the extra level of PPE needed with gradually reduce back to a relatively normal level fairly swiftly. It is our way of saying thank you for your continued loyalty in remaining a member of the Practice throughout the lock down.
However, we are looking ahead in our treatment books, and are hoping that all our patients with routine examination assessments in July will be able to keep these as normal. We will also very shortly be starting to rebook those patients who we had to cancel in March and April into July as well. We will also be working through the cancellation lists in order to make sure we get on top of any outstanding treatment as quickly as possible.
There are still fairly significant limitations placed on treatment that involve the production of Aerosols. One of the main treatments that we provide that produce aerosols is the routine hygiene appointment. In initially we will only be able to provide these by hand instrumentation. This causes a significant amount of hand-fatigue on our hygienists, and as a result I am increase the rest time between patients for them to recover. This means that hygiene appointments will no longer be synchronised with the assessment and examination appointments as it will be impossible to do this. Please do not be concerned however, as you will still receive the treatment that you have pre-paid on your plans, but I have to take into consideration all the aspects of the care we no provide, and how we provide it in a safe manner for both patients and staff alike.
We are currently working on the rotas to enable more of our team to return to work in order to reduce this backlog of treatment and examinations that has inevitably built up in the practice. All dental practices are experiencing the same issues, and please rest assured we are prioritising care appropriately. We have been inundated with calls from new patients and those from other practices, but want to reassure you all that our priorities will be with our loyal patients at this time. One aspect of this is that whilst we still aim to keep your appointments with your usual dentist, due to the likely shift patterns and appointment availability with each of us, it may mean you have to consider being booked in with one of the other dentists in order to reduce your waiting times.
There are still many unknowns in the dental field, and indeed life in general. Whilst I am privileged in my work with the British Association of Private Dentistry, the British Dental Association, and the local Dental Committees to be ahead of the curve on many aspects of this, it is still a very changeable environment that dentists are working in. If you feel we have not been able to inform you of any changes or what we are going to be doing next, principally it is because we have had no guidance ourselves and are therefore unable to make the necessary plans and let you know what we are doing next. It was certainly easier to begin lockdown that it has been exiting it.
I hope this update helps to reassure you all that we are busily working to restore a normal service, and that we are confident this will happen as rapidly as possible. We would like to thank all of you for bearing with us whilst we restructure and rebuild the service that you have become used to, and also thank you for continuing to be loyal patients of Thackeray Dental Care now and in the future.