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LONDON, UK: The dental industry has gone through many sudden and extreme changes since the start of the pandemic, and it is now evident that access to oral care will remain restricted in the months to come, which may result in new challenges and bring uncertainty to the dental profession. To help healthcare workers navigate the healthcare crisis, the UK government has recently awarded National Health Service (NHS) doctors and dentists a pay rise for their vital contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The world is faced with new challenges. The COVID-19 outbreak has had an enormous impact on the lives of many professionals, especially healthcare service providers,” Dr Ali Nankali, a clinical senior lecturer at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London and the president of UKDentalCourses (UKDC), told Dental Tribune International.
“The increasing stress has already affected dentists’ efficiency and that of their teams. Dentists are also worried about other factors influencing their careers, such as inflation. Lack of budget and the temporary reduction of spending and production have created uncertainty that has boosted inflation and reduced confidence in the dental field,” he continued. “The rate of supply and demand in all industries, including dentistry, is partly determined by the impact of COVID-19, and dental services have seen some sharp changes in the demand for dental care.”
Nankali believes that fear of infection in heavily affected areas and recommendations provided by leading health organisations such as the World Health Organization, which has recently urged the government to postpone all elective dental care, have contributed to fear and anxiety among dental patients, who continue to delay routine dental check-ups. The reduced number of patients, as well as other uncertainties caused by the pandemic, has had a tremendous effect on dental professionals.
In recognition of their vital contribution to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer in the UK, recently awarded nearly 900,000 public sector workers, including hospital and community dentists, a 2.8% pay rise. The increase will be backdated to April, with no staging. The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed the news and said that the increase in salary offers some comfort to services in crisis. However, it noted that more needs to be done to maintain the long-term integrity and viability of the service.
“Before COVID-19 hit, years of pay restraint had already taken their toll. Above-inflation increases are starting to repair that damage, and now must be pursued in tandem with other needed action to keep this service afloat,” BDA Principal Executive Committee Vice Chair Eddie Crouch said in a press release. “We’ve secured needed progress on abatement and pay. We now need to see a concerted strategy to ensure the nation’s dental services—both NHS and private—have a future.”
COVID-19 educational resource for dentists
Commenting on the pay rise, Nankali noted that, although the majority of dental professionals appreciate the financial support, the increase in pay does not solve the key issues that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. He noted that dental practitioners still struggle to get the latest COVID-19-related news from a single, trusted source and subsequently spend considerable time researching the topic themselves.
To help dental professionals with this issue, UKDC, an online education platform for dentists worldwide, has recently created an automated page that offers the latest information related to the pandemic and its effect on dentistry. According to Nankali, the page has received favourable feedback, which prompted the creation of a Telegram channel via which subscribers to UKDC can update themselves on the COVID-19 pandemic via their mobile phones.
Similarly, dental professionals can find the latest updates on COVID-19 and its impact on the dental profession on Dental Tribune International’s dedicated microsite, and explore continuing professional development opportunities via e-learning platforms such as the DT Study Club.