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Supporting oral healthcare through the COVID-19 pandemic

Michael Escudier

19 May 2020

Professor Michael Escudier

It seems only yesterday that we were planning for the annual Diplomates Day held at the Law Society back in March. Since then it seems that every aspect of our personal and professional lives has been turned upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced not only dentistry, but the entire healthcare profession and indeed the whole world, to grapple with challenges that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. We know what a difficult and troubling period this has been for our members, and have been doing everything we can to support you, the public and the profession at this extremely challenging time.

One of our first actions was in the area of training where our focus has been to minimise the potential disruption to career progression. By working with the Dental Faculties of the other Royal Colleges, the General Dental Council, and the Health Education bodies of the four nations, procedures were established to enable undergraduates, dental foundation trainees and dental core trainees to progress and specialty trainees to be recruited. However, we remain acutely aware of the impact of deferment of speciality membership and fellowship examinations during the past two months, and are exploring ways to recommence these assessments at the earliest opportunity.

Following the instructions of the four Chief Dental Officers to cease all routine and non-urgent treatment, we have been in constant discussion with external organisations to support the delivery of patient care. In collaboration with specialist bodies, the Faculty developed a range of clinical guidelines for urgent and emergency care to support the NHS England Standard Operating Procedures for the urgent dental care centres. We also helped bring together the Dental Faculties, specialist associations and Public Heath England to frame official guidance on personal protective equipment and aerosol generating procedures. More recently we published a joint statement - together with the Faculty of General Dental Practice, the British Dental Association and Public Health England - outlining the ongoing need to maintain the profession’s successful antimicrobial stewardship during the pandemic.

Throughout the course of the pandemic the intelligence provided by Faculty members has been invaluable. We are particularly grateful to the large numbers who completed our member surveys. These provided a vital front-line perspective on the challenges faced around issues like personal protective equipment and access to testing, and enabled me to share these insights in discussions with the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Dental Officer (England and Wales) and senior officials at NHS England and Public Health England. From the outset the Faculty was also keen to provide a forum for individual members to raise specific questions, and I was therefore delighted that my fellow Deans came on-board to deliver fortnightly webinars. Each Faculty leads these in turn with the next FDS hosted webinar taking place on 2 June, with a focus on Health and Wellbeing.

After nearly two months of lockdown the profession is understandably keen to return to active duty and provide safe care for their patients. The Faculty is fully engaged in discussions about restarting dental services, although this will of course be dependent on how the pandemic progresses over the coming weeks. We appreciate how difficult this profound uncertainty is for all oral health professionals, and that the eventual adjustment to a “new normal” will also create its own challenges. Please do keep in touch with us about this through the webinars, or by emailing us so that we can continue to escalate your concerns as we engage with government. In the meantime look after yourselves and stay safe.

Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons

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