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‘Major questions remain’ over plan for dentists to reopen says city MP seeking answers in Parliament

Government has announced that dental practices can start to reopen on the 8 June. However, practitioners and the British Dental Association (BDA) have expressed grave concern over the lack of warning and what this means for PPE and training amid Covid-19.

A poll conducted by the BDA of 2,053 practices in England suggests that just over a third (36%) plan to reopen on Monday. The BDA poll identified a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as one of the major challenges to reopening, with only one third of practices saying they had enough to provide face-to-face care.

In an effort to get answers, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted a chain of targeted questions directly to the Health Secretary. Turning up the heat on the Secretary of State, he probed on how government is supporting the supply of PPE and raised concerns over the lack of warning and engagement.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The fact that government has failed to properly engage with practices before announcing the reopening and failed to take steps to secure PPE is another example of dentistry being treated as the Cinderella service.

Additional costs incurred for procuring PPE, providing training, and putting in place social distancing measures could undermine the financial stability of a number of practices. In addition, the lack of warning simply means that over a third will not be able to open. The effect of this is people requiring dental work will have to wait even longer before receiving essential healthcare.

I hope that turning the heat up on the Health Secretary through questions in parliament, I will help get answers to some of the questions raised by government’s unclear messaging on reopening.”

Decontamination and social distancing policies mean longer treatment slots, with surgeries sometimes sitting idle between patients – leaving many practices unable to maintain their financial viability in the face of fewer patients and higher costs.

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:

“Anyone expecting dentistry to magically return on Monday will find only a skeleton service. Those practices reopening now face fewer patients and higher costs and will struggle to meet demand.

Dentists returning to work still lack the support offered to our neighbours on the high street, and even clarity on key worker status when it comes to childcare. Ministers must change tack if dentistry is going to survive the new normal.”

Stephen Morgan MP has long argued that government must pay more attention to the silent creeping crisis in dentistry. Last year, when news broke that 1 in 5 Portsmouth children suffer from tooth decay by the time they are 5 years old, Mr Morgan took a number of actions.

This included meeting with senior NHS England officials, the Director of the British Dental Association, grilling the Minister responsible in parliament, and writing to the Health Secretary to push for improvements.

The city MP added:

“The cycle of complacency shown by Government towards NHS dentistry must come to an end. I have long argued for the need for a coherent oral health strategy that has patients at the heart of it and is focused on access and prevention, and NHS dentistry that is adequately commissioned and funded.

The recent developments arising due to the pandemic only increase the need for government to urgently address the lack of support for dentistry.

I will continue to engage with the BDA and local practices on behalf of constituents to ensure that concerns are raised in Parliament.”