Covid-19 update: response to BBC news article

April 09, 2020


Two weeks ago, as part of the fight against the Corona virus, the UK government made the decision to close down all dental practices with immediate effect, and to stop all face to face contact between dentists and their patients. That was two weeks ago, but there has been no mention of this in the media, despite the extensive commentary on virtually all other aspects of the fight against the virus



I just thought I would comment on the recent story on the BBC suggesting that dentists have closed their practices and will not see any patients unless its an emergency. I repeat again that due to the fight against the corona virus, ALL dental practices have been closed down. Consequently, dentists cannot currently treat any patients, even in an emergency, despite the BBC article. (link below).


To be clear … this is a central government decision, and NOT the decision of your dentist.


The BBC report seemto suggest that dentists can see patients, but only if they have an emergency; facial swelling was highlighted as an example by one patient. Again, this is NOT the case. All dental practices have been closed, and dentists are not allowed to do anything except to offer advice over the phone at this time.


All dentists find this deplorable, yet as I write there is still nowhere to send our patients. At Riveredge we know all of our patients on first name terms; they are more like friends who we are powerless to help. Hence our frustration. In the interim, the government have suggested dental patients should contact NHS 111 if there is a true emergency, but NHS 111 are already awashwith calls and so are telling patients in pain to contact their dentist once again. Perhaps it is this turn of events that suggests dentists could actually see patients if it was a true emergency. As I’ve said, this NOT the case and it is patently obvious that the NHS 111 system is not currently working for dentistry.



To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, dentists were ordered NOT to see patients in person, but instead to offer advice over the telephone with three stages of involvement;


1. Advice(reassurance)
2. Analgesics(painkillers)
3. Antibiotics(but only where absolutely necessary)


The government describe this approach as “The 3 A’s” but it does not involve face to face consultations.


Dentists have been advised to refer patients with severe problems to Urgent Dental Centres (UDC’s) which governmentpromised would be rapidly set up in every town to deal with issues caused by the immediate closure of all regular dental practices. However, after two weeks we have still to see these UDC’s in place. 



It inow two weeks since we have had to close our doors by order of the government’s Chief Dental Officer (CDO); yes there is one. In fact there are four! England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have one, but England has seniorityThe Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, is seen on TV every day (sometimes multiple times per day) yet the Chief Dental Officer of England is nowhere to be seen; the silence has been deafening.  Her name is Sara Hurley, in case you are interested.


Her remit is to direct dental care throughout the UKyet in the current crisis, announcements are made just once a week, and then only via the NHS England website. As a result, the information rarely makes it to the mainstream media. No wonder everyone (except dental teams) remain in the dark about dental emergency provision right now.



If you have a problem, your dentists can only offer advice over the phone or by email; no face to face contact, remember! The promised Urgent Dental Centres (UDC’s) have yet to materialise, so patients have to contact NHS 111 or even contact Hospital Casualty Departments if they have a true emergency.


It’s time the government made good on their promise to organise proper dental treatment facilities, but until then we can onlycontinue with our telephone triage system; the 3 A’s.


If you need assistance in these uncertain times then please call 0191 567 1020 (our usual practice number) or email and we will be available to help our patients where we can. The phones will be operated by the dentists Ken & Richard from 8.30 AM -10.00 AM, Mon-Fri, and will offer you personalised assessment, advice and support.


If medications are needed we can arrange for these to be collected from a local pharmacy. In the small number of true dental emergencies we can advise on what the next stages of your treatment will be at that time. Further to that, if you need to talk through any dental related matters, then just give us a call and we will be there for you. Calls outside of these hours will be dealt with the following day.

In a severe dental emergency the current guidelines advise patients call NHS111 number for advice. We know this is not ideal, but this is the current state of play right now.



Rest assured that all dentists feel just as frustrated as you about this situation, but government advice must be followed, so dental practices are currently unable to open, no exceptions. We await the next announcement from the Chief Dental Officer regarding this unsatisfactory situation, but when that will be is anyone’s guess.


For everyone’s protection do not travel to the practice (there will be nobody there) and please continue to follow the broader guidelines from NHS England regarding personal well-being, hand hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation at this time.


We will keep you updated if there is any change to this short-term, temporary arrangement and hope to back to normal working patterns as soon as possible.


Please keep yourselves and your families safe and we look forward to seeing you in the near future.


Kind Regards


Ken Harris & Richard CoatesRiveredge Dentistry