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News / June 18, 2020

Concerns over PPE as reopening plans revealed for Northern Ireland

by Gaby Bissett

Dentists are warning that progress in the progression could stall due to shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). 

The Department of Health confirmed phase two for the resumption of dental services in Northern Ireland will kickstart on Monday 29 June.

This phase will allow dentists and other dental professionals to provide non-urgent face-to-face care.

And phase three – which will permit dentists to carry out AGPs – will begin on Monday 20 July. Those carrying out such procedures are expected to use full PPE.

Hike in costs

Yet the British Dental Association (BDA) estimates the cost of the newly-required PPE has increased by up to 6000%.

Kits priced at around 35p to 45p before the pandemic can now leave a practice £20 to £30 out of pocket, depending on the requirements.

Richard Graham is the chair of the BDA’s Northern Ireland dental practice committee.

‘We finally have a timetable. Dentists need time to prepare, but PPE remains the elephant in the room,’ he said.

‘Practices face not only shortages but crippling increases in costs for vital protective kit. We can put out the welcome mat, but without access to government supply chains, we will be in no position to treat patients.

‘But we will need help to survive the new normal. Without long term support, sky-high overheads and fewer patents could be the final nail in the coffin for the service in NI.

‘We trust the department will step up to the plate.’

Financially unsustainable

Routine dentistry returned in England on Monday 8 June, but many practices have been operating at less than one quarter of their pre-pandemic capacity.

Less than 10% of English practices report their practice is financially sustainability on this basis.

The BDA argues the integration of dental services into the wider government PPE supply chain will be necessary for the plans to resume routine dental care.