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New NHS Scotland guidance criticised by BDA

New guidance regarding the treatment of healthcare patients with potential respiratory illnesses has drawn the ire of BDA Scotland, which stated that "these new guidelines will not magically restore services" to dental patients waiting for a check-up. (Image: pang_oasis/Shutterstock)

STIRLING, UK: Earlier this week, NHS Scotland released new guidance for the prevention and handling of potential respiratory infections in healthcare patients. Developed with the understanding that COVID-19 and other respiratory infections will likely surge during the 2021/2022 winter months, the guidance has nevertheless drawn criticism from the British Dental Association’s (BDA) Scotland branch, which has accused the Scottish government of saddling dentists with “a system that is unfit for purpose”.

The new guidance was issued as part of NHS Scotland’s National Infection and Control Prevention Manual and stipulates that, before treatment commences, healthcare patients must be placed on one of two pathways based on the likelihood of them having a respiratory illness. Patients placed on the non-respiratory pathway can be handled in accordance with standard infection control precautions for non-aerosol-generating procedures, with stricter measures in place for aerosol-generating procedures. For those on the respiratory pathway, these stricter measures will be in place for all procedures.

In a press release, BDA Scotland lamented the difficulties that Scottish dentists continue to face in treating patients and criticised the government for introducing these measures while it remains committed to removing all emergency support for NHS dental teams by 1 April 2022. According to a report from last month in The Herald, a survey of Scottish dentists found that more than 40% intend to go fully private and cease offering NHS dental services if this emergency support is removed next April. Meanwhile, COVID-19-related restrictions meant that the number of NHS dental treatments carried out in Scotland during the 2020/2021 financial year was down by 77.5% in comparison with 2018/2019—the last financial year not affected by the pandemic.

“Since the spring we have been pressing for a plan to safely ease COVID restrictions, to help increase patient numbers,” said Dr David McColl, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee. “Sadly, these new guidelines will not magically restore services. They land as we head into winter when respiratory diseases are set to skyrocket.”

McColl stressed that the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, combined with rising infection rates in general for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, would lead to Scottish dentists falling even further behind in their attempts to see patients long overdue for a check-up.

“We are still facing massive backlogs, saddled with a system that is unfit for purpose,” he stated.

“New protocols will not soften the blow of plans to pull away emergency support at this challenging time for infections and try and return to a ‘business as usual’ model during a pandemic,” McColl added.


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