Dentists reopen in West Yorkshire but face huge backlogs

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Some dental surgeries in England re-opened to huge backlogs today - after being given just six working days to prepare.

As many as 10,000 practices were once again able to treat patients on a limited basis with strict social distancing measures in place and staff wearing additional PPE.

St Michael's Dental Practice in Wakefield, West Yorks., allowed the first patients through its doors three months after owner Joe Hendron made the decision to shut down in March.

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Mr Hendron, 55, who has been practicing dentistry for more than 30 years, said it was a "weird experience" to be back at work under the current restrictions.

St Michael's Dental Practice in Wakefield allowed the first patients through its doors in three months. Photo: Google.St Michael's Dental Practice in Wakefield allowed the first patients through its doors in three months. Photo: Google.
St Michael's Dental Practice in Wakefield allowed the first patients through its doors in three months. Photo: Google.

He said: "It's like nothing I have ever known before in my time in dentistry.

"It will be mid-Autumn at least before things are anywhere near back to normal."

Mr Hendron said his staff had worked around the clock to put safety measures in place to be able to re-open.

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All form-filling was done over the phone before patients turned up and they were given an allotted time to arrive at the practice.

Once there, a member of staff greeted them and escorted them directly to the surgery room so that nobody is sat around in the waiting room.

Only one person was allowed in at a time, although parents were allowed in the surgery with their child.

All equipment will be deep cleaned after use and some treatments - including drilling - will not be available until further PPE has been sourced.

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Mr Hendron said his staff had worked around the clock to make sure they were able to open.

He added: "The first I heard that dentists were re-opening was when I read it on the sticker on the screen during a Boris Johnson address to the nation.

"It just said dentists to re-open on the 8th of June.

"The next morning, our phone was off the hook with people trying to book appointments.

"We had to prioritise the most urgent patients and people were ringing up to try to book check ups for them and their family on the 8th. That just couldn't happen."

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Mr Hendron said the practice would operate five surgeries, with each dentist seeing around 30 patients per day before lockdown.

And they have only been able to offer a limited amount of treatments, such as extractions, as they have not yet secured adequate PPE for staff to start drilling into teeth.

But he said they could only facilitate 10-12 patients per dentist post-lockdown - and that number will half once they start drilling again.

He added: "Dentists used to wear gloves, a mask and goggles for eye protection before lockdown.

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"Now we are on what we call level two PPE - that means our staff now wear different masks, gloves, a gown and a visor to cover the full face rather than just goggles.

"I have secured 100 masks that have set me back £1,000 .

"When we start drilling into people's teeth again, we will have to have level three PPE for our staff.

"And for every patient we see, we need two sets of PPE - one for the nurse and one for the dentist - and we can only use each set of PPE once.

"That's an extra £30 of cost for every patient we see.

"On Friday, there was only 600 practices around the country open, but today as many as 10,000 can re-open, so the demand for PPE has just shot up."

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Mr Hendron also said his staff faced difficulty securing child care as dentists have not been included in the government's key worker list.

He added: "Hopefully the dental profession will no longer be seen as the Cinderella profession of the NHS.

"Before this, whenever NHS workers spoken about, dentists never get mentioned.

"Nurses and dentists need to make sure they have the appropriate child care to be able to come to work."

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