The British Dental Association has announced that dentists in Scotland employed under the same contract as junior doctors, will join their medical colleagues in a 72-hour walkout, the dates of which are yet to be confirmed, if BMA ongoing negotiations with the Scottish government do not result in a credible pay offer.
The overwhelming majority of voters (91%) from this small but important cohort backed industrial action, on a turnout of 79%.
British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: “Our members stand ready to do whatever it takes to secure a fair deal on pay. Just like their medical colleagues these dentists aren’t worth a penny less than they were a decade ago. We are hopeful that a negotiated settlement can be found. But our members will take strike action if the Scottish Government fail to come back to the table with a serious pay offer.”
The Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group (SDPO) has raised serious concerns that NHS dental teams in Scotland have been issued face coverings that may not be “fit for use”. The organisation reported that when practices received their PPE to begin aerosol generating procedures from Monday 17th August, some discovered that the FFP3 masks they received were “significantly beyond their expiry dates, in some cases by almost a decade”.
The SDPO even claimed that, in some cases, the original expiry dates had been covered with a new date of expiry label. To top it off, those dates had also passed, with the most recent being in 2019.
The SPDO said: “Preliminary inquiries to the mask manufacturer 3M suggest that they do not consider masks beyond their expiry date to be fit for use. Practitioners have serious concerns about the safety of masks of this age. How can masks this old be passed as safe when the manufacturer suggests otherwise? SDPO members are practice owners and must consider patient and staff safety. We lack confidence that the masks issued to dental practice staff are fit for use, and we are very concerned that NHS dental teams across Scotland have been issued with masks that may compromise patient and staff safety.”
However, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government stated: “Revalidating stock and extending the shelf-life of masks is standard practice to maintain pandemic stock levels and this was used in relation to FFP3 respirator stocks as announced in March. Any PPE which has been issued to NHS boards for onward distribution to dental practices and may have passed its original expiry date has been re-tested to ensure it remains safe to use. Such testing has been approved and reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive and to standards relevant to the PPE being tested. Critically, this PPE – supplied free of charge by our NHS – enables dentists to carry out urgent and emergency care while ensuring the safety of patients, dentists and all dental staff. Each board has a proactive programme of fit-testing for FFP3 masks under way with each practice requiring a fit test for a dentist and dental nurse; this is a rolling programme of work, there are around 1000 dental practices in Scotland.”
NHS dental practices are to re-introduce a range of procedures, such as the use of drills, on a limited basis in Scotland. Practices have been able to see NHS patients for certain types of non-aerosol routine care as part of Phase 3.
Now dental practices, if they are ready, will be able to provide aerosol generating procedures (AGP) on patients with urgent dental problems from 17 August. This move will be supported by the provision of enhanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to dental practices which will require to be individually fitted to dental team members to ensure they work effectively.
This limited introduction, with care prioritised for patients in need of urgent care, replicates the arrangements in place in urgent dental care centres.
Chief Dental Officer Tom Ferris said: “NHS patients have been able to receive care and treatment including aerosol generating procedures through one of the 71 urgent dental care centres in Scotland. Now a limited range of AGP procedures will be available at NHS practices – this decision has been taken after carefully and thoroughly considering the balance between the overall risk of infection with the needs of patients to be seen by dentists.
“I am pleased that patients seeking such urgent procedures can now been seen at their NHS practice, and in turn, that practices can expand their services to patients.”
AGPs are defined as any patient care procedure that results in the production of airborne particles, known as aerosols.
These are relevant to the spread of COVID-19 since transmission may occur through both direct air-borne infection and through contact with contaminated surfaces.
In urgent dental care centres dentists and the dental team are provided with enhanced PPE, including face-fitted masks.
Dental practices that wish to provide AGP care to NHS patients will be provided with a similar level of PPE.
The Chief Dental Officer and his team are in regular contact with NHS Boards to ensure dental practices have clear guidance on appropriate procedures for seeing patients. The Scottish Government have also been working closely with BDA (Scotland) in making the necessary preparations.