DENTAL and optometry practices across Wales are gradually reintroducing a broader range of services as part of the phased recovery of health services from the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike in England, many dental practices in Wales have remained open during the pandemic to provide emergency care. Over 16,500 patients have been seen in-practice by dentists in Wales since mid-March, with a further 180,000 patients being assessed remotely by phone or video.
87 of Wales’ 400 optometry practices have also kept their doors open during the pandemic, providing urgent and essential eye care to over 19,000 patients through in-practice and remote consultations.
Optometry and dental practices have been able to increase service provision from 22nd June, reintroducing additional procedures for those patients most in need. Further services will be gradually reinstated. Those who have experienced serious problems during the lockdown period, and those with urgent care needs, will be prioritised as practices work towards returning to normal service.
Patients should not expect business as usual however as it is likely to be some time before the full range of services – including those dental procedures that generate aerosols that can spread the virus – will be reintroduced. Due to the need for social distancing and infection control, practices will also operate well below previous capacity during this phase.
Exact provision will vary by practice and patients will be contacted when routine appointments can resume. Due to the anticipated significant demand on the system, patients are asked not to contact their practice for routine appointments at this time.
Welsh Government will continue to work with health boards and NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to ensure practices can access appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Restoring services is a complex process. We have kept the situation under review throughout the pandemic and ensured continued access to emergency care for those who have needed it. Now that the level of coronavirus in our communities is stabilising, we can restart some non-urgent services in a cautious and phased way.
We are working closely with the relevant professional bodies and are confident that Wales’ dentists and optometrists will continue to follow strict measures, including social distancing, to protect staff and patients. While we are not yet back to business as usual, we would urge those requiring treatment to ensure that they access it to prevent longer-term concerns.”
Optometrist Annette Dobbs runs a practice in Barry: “We have put in place a comprehensive training programme so our staff are prepared for the new way of working. We have PPE supplies, Perspex screens in our reception areas, and social distancing markers on the floor. We’ll be operating an appointment-only system for now, ensuring we can maintain the right degree of infection control between patients. We are really looking forward to seeing more of our patients return to practice.”
Dentist Jeremy Williams of Rosehill Dental Practice in Conwy said: “We have remained open throughout the pandemic, providing urgent care to over 400 patients. Now we’re starting to contact other patients to establish what their care needs are. That will enable us to prioritise initial treatment for those who most need it. We understand some patients may feel a little anxious about starting to access services again. We want to reassure them that we have put in place a range of measures within the practice so they can feel comfortable returning to us for treatment.”
Anyone requiring urgent dental treatment or assessment should call NHS 111.