To be told to close was extremely worrying. The inability to provide face to face care for our patients and concerns about the impact on the viability of a proudly independent local business was at the forefront of our minds.
The shortage of PPE and concerns about spreading the virus meant all dental practices were shut from March 21st to June 8th. All emergency work was carried out by local hubs and members of our team worked in these to help provide treatment.
The initial lockdown period created the unique challenge of providing the best possible service to patients, without being able to see them face to face, and ensuring our staff and their families were supported. We have been hugely grateful for the support of our loyal patients and hard-working staff throughout everything we faced in 2020. It also gave us the time and space to update the infrastructure in the practice including two upgraded surgeries and a new one on the way.
Following the initial lockdown, dentistry has remained open to provide care under strict and careful guidance. Each practice has to provide a risk assessment and operating protocol to ensure it can operate safely and provide the highest possible level of care while protecting patients, staff and the public. We decided to over-prepare and ensure we exceeded any potential guidance to provide the best possible protection for patients and staff upon re-opening.
Our measures include:
- COVID screening of all patients before every appointment.
- Patient medical histories and other forms can now be completed online before visiting the practice.
- Staff are provided with the highest level of PPE available.
- Every surgery is deep cleaned and disinfected after each patient visit.
- Antiviral surgical grade air purification units in each surgery and the patient lounge.
- Strict social distancing for all staff and patients.
- All staff areas have been risk-assessed to minimise person to person contact.
We have found many of these changes have ongoing benefits regardless of Covid-19. For example, our new online system for patient records has reduced check-in and waiting times. The air purification units have been an excellent acquisition and will remain in place to help reduce the risk of spread of any bacteria or virus (colds, flu etc). We were involved with the preliminary work for a COVID aerosol study with the University of Bristol to help analyse and understand the full benefit of this type of air filtration. We will always look to invest in the latest technology to the benefit of our patients.
The feedback from patients has been very positive with many welcoming the fact we have been open for their dental needs and feel safe and reassured by all the measures we have taken to protect them.
Our staff have been fabulous as always, responding to challenges with complete conviction and adaptability. We have altered our working hours to help ensure more patients can access treatment at times that suit them and the staff have welcomed the shift-style pattern to balance working and home lives. Our team has actually grown throughout the year as the demand for treatment has been so great. Everyone has adapted to the changing way of working with eagerness and a great team approach.
There will be lessons for all industries from Covid-19. There will no doubt be policy changes even when the threat levels drop. There will continue to be greater emphasis on more online consultations and planning appointments, together with the ability for patients to carry out more of the pre-appointment checks at home. With any change there will be adjustments required for patients and staff but we are well placed to respond. We are excited by what 2021 has to offer as the world emerges from this pandemic.
We also look forward to continuing the legacy of excellence the practice has been associated with since 1886. Our team and ethos are stronger than ever, and we are ready for the next chapter in the history of Circus Dental.