Latest updates from the GDC - January 2021

GDC COVID-19 online hub

It has been confirmed that all NHS dentistry and oral health will remain open following the most recent lockdown announcements by the UK Government.

The GDC's COVID-19 online hub provides you with clear signposting to all of the latest guidance relating to coronavirus, details on the adjustments they have made to the way we regulate, and the impact the pandemic has already had on the public and dental professionals.

COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline dental professionals

It has been confirmed that if you are a UK frontline dental practitioner, you are in the priority group for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, as part of the ‘frontline health and social care workers’ group.

The Chief Dental Officer England has also today confirmed that dental professionals and their teams are being prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccine. This means that dental teams supporting the NHS and those working in private or mixed practices will all be entitled to a vaccine. This includes specialist practices and clinical dental technicians registered with the CQC.

If you work in private dentistry in England, as a matter of urgency please check that your contact details held by the CQC are up to date and correct. More details are available on the email bulletin Your NHS and dentistry oral health update (NHS England).

Finally, GDC have seen suggestions that the GDC Standards for the Dental Team might mean the vaccine is mandatory for dental professionals. They want to be clear that this is not the case

Annual Renewal for dentists

The final processes to reconcile Annual Renewal are almost done and the early indicators are that the number of dentists on the UK Register has remained broadly unchanged.

The GDC understands that the pandemic and the efforts to suppress it have put a lot of people in a tough position and that the current uncertainty is going to continue for some time. If you have not been able to renew, you might want to consider restoration. Further details on what you need to do to rejoin the Register can be found on their website.

New research published on the impact of COVID-19 on dental professionals

The findings from our latest research will provide you with a sense of scale of the impact of COVID-19 on dental professionals and dentistry. It highlights that the pressure on incomes has been immense and, unable to scale up capacity, the indications are that it will be a while before there is any respite.

Researchers found that two thirds of dental professionals expected their income to fall over the coming year, with four out of five reporting that it had already fallen when compared to the same time last year, reportedly by an average of 45%. Combined with expectations of seeing fewer patients over the next 12 months and anticipated increases in demand, issues relating to reduced access to care are likely to continue, a topic that has been explored in a recent GDC article on the impacts of COVID-19.

Dental professionals reported feeling confident that they could do their job safely during the first lockdown, but that a lack of consistency and coordination in the provision of guidance led to confusion, localised variances in practice, and additional stress.

This independent research forms part of wider programme of work to understand the impact of COVID-19 on dentistry.

Save the date: The impact of COVID-19 on dentistry live online event

GDC's next live online event is being held from 5pm-7pm Tuesday 23 February 2021.

With a range of external contributors, GDC will be answering your questions and discussing some of the key themes emerging from their research and engagement programme on the impact that COVID-19 has and, continues to have, on dentistry. GDC will be also looking forward and considering the challenges to come and how we can work together to address them.

GCD's panel members will be discussing and responding to questions on:

  • Access to dentistry and working to address health inequalities.
  • Support needed to address financial and workforce pressures.
  • Bridging the road to recovery.

GDC wants to put your questions to our panellists. They're asking you to do this in advance. So, if you would like to ask a question on one of the themes listed above, please visit the GDC website to submit your question or comment.

The names of their panellists and further information about this live event will be confirmed in their next month’s newsletter. But for now, you can add the link below to your calendar to join this session on 23 February from 5pm.

Join live event - The impact of COVID-19 on dentistry

New COVID-19 guidance for primary care providers

New COVID-19 guidance on communicating with people with learning disability and autism, dementia and mental health needs has been published by NHS England and NHS Improvement. You will find this useful when considering any reasonable adjustments that may be required when providing primary care for patients who may have additional needs during the pandemic.

What have people been saying about their experience of NHS dental services in England?

HealthWatch (England) has published a new report, What people are telling us: July to September 2020, which looks at patients’ experiences of health and social care services, including access to NHS dental care. Appending the report is, Dentistry and the impact of COVID-19.

While priority dental care has been provided under a set of extremely challenging and unprecedented circumstances, the report highlights a number of issues for you as a practitioner to consider, including how access to dental services might be improved.

The report also highlights some of the positive experiences of dental patients, who praised staff who were helpful, kind, and considerate, while stressing the need for clear and regular information from dental practices to make the public and patients feel reassured.

Local resolution of low level concerns in Scotland

From 1 January 2021, low level complaints, those that do not give rise to a ‘fitness to practise’ concern, will now be rerouted or referred back to Scottish Health Boards and dental practices (if not previously considered there). This change will help to ensure that more concerns are handled in the right place and will apply to complaints raised about general dental practice in NHS and mixed practices, but only in relation to NHS dental care.

GDC has worked in partnership to agree the new referral process with the Chief Dental Officer Scotland, NHS National Services Scotland, the NHS Board of Directors of Dentistry and the BDA. Please note that similar arrangements already exist with NHS Wales and NHS England. Further details on the referral process are available online.

Participants needed: UK-REACH study into ethnicity and COVID-19

GDC has been working with the University of Leicester to recruit participants for the United Kingdom Research Study into Ethnicity and COVID-19 Outcomes in Healthcare Workers (UK-REACH) study. While they have had some success, they do need more of you to get involved. This is an important study that could help to protect the health of everyone in the dental team.

The beginning of the vaccination programme is great news. However, there will unfortunately still be many difficult months ahead and, given this, understanding disparities in COVID-19 outcomes remains vital. If you have not yet joined the study, please take the time to consider taking part. GDC is in need of practitioners of all ethnicities.

Further details about the study including how to take part can be found online.

Import licensing with the Human Tissue Authority

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is the regulator of human tissue and organs in the UK. They are responsible for licensing and inspecting organisations that store and use tissue for purposes such as research, teaching and patient treatment.

Regulatory changes have now come into effect relevant to dental practices in Northern Ireland that import or receive human tissues or cells from Great Britain for human application. To carry out this activity you now need to hold a HTA licence. These changes came into effect from 1 January 2021 following the end of the Brexit Transition period.