8th June 2020


19.6.20: Update from Welsh Government Health Minister: https://gov.wales/written-statement-recovery-optometry-and-dental-services

In light of the latest evidence and the announcement made by the First Minister earlier today, we will be moving optometry and dental services into the next phase of recovery from 22 June. This will enable optometry and dental practices to provide a wider range of services as part of their plans to return to normal services.

We will continue to work with health boards and NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership to ensure practices can access appropriate levels of Personal Protective Equipment.

Optometry Services

In May a recovery action plan for return to normal services was issued to optometry practices in Wales. To support the transition into the Amber phase of the recovery plan, further guidance was provided to enable practices to implement appropriate social distancing measures for the safety of the public and the workforce. The guidance includes a “return to work” self-assessment tool for optometry practices to complete and return to NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership prior to opening.

In line with the announcement today to ease lockdown measures, optometry practices will complete the self-assessment tool and move to the recovery plan Amber phase from Monday 22 June.  Some practices may need and welcome time to prepare for re-opening, ensuring they are equipped with PPE to start seeing NHS patients and we fully support that requirement.

A limited number of optometry practices, aligned to primary care clusters, have remained open to provide urgent and essential eye care during the Red Phase of service delivery. The movement into the Amber Phase of recovery will enable these practices to move quickly to start to address a wider range of eye care conditions.

Due to the large demand on the service and the requirements for social distancing and necessary infection control procedures, capacity will be limited and those NHS patients with the greatest clinical need will be prioritised.

Dental Services

We have been clear the resumption of dental services needs to be gradual to protect dental practice staff and patients as Covid-19 is still in circulation in Wales. Our aim continues to implement a safe, phased, risk-based re-establishment of essential dental services.

The indicative date for the Red dental alert to lift was 1 July. Given the easement of other lockdown measures announced today and the knowledge that a number of practices are ready to re-introduce more treatments it is proposed to lift the Red alert on the 22 June.

The majority of practices and health boards still need and welcome the time available before 1 July to prepare, and we fully support that requirement. However, practices who are ready to implement the Standard Operating Process published on 10 June, particularly those who are already equipped with enhanced PPE and can implement all other measures to re-introduce aerosol generating procedures safely, should contact their health board and/or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to give confirmation and assurance.

Some health boards are actively identifying practices to be designated non-Covid-19 aerosol generating procedure hubs to compliment the work of the urgent dental centres. This lifting of Red alert allows that process to be progressed in all health boards.

Dentistry and coronavirus: Statement by the Chief Dental Officer for Wales 6.6.20

To help reduce the spread of coronavirus, since March we have scaled-back normal NHS dentistry services to help protect the public, dental teams and our local communities.

Many dental procedures, such as fillings or scaling, use high-speed drills and other tools which are “aerosol generating” – this means they create spray. This, in the current pandemic, could risk spreading the virus and that’s why we’ve asked dentists to stop routine activity for the time being.

However, dentists in Wales have remained open for urgent care throughout the lockdown. They have seen 10,000 people in practices and provided 125,000 consultations remotely, via phone or video services. Pain relief and antibiotics have continued to be prescribed where necessary.

Fifteen urgent dental care centres have been opened covering the whole country. These centres have provided emergency treatment to more than 4,000 people – this includes extractions, opening teeth to drain abscesses and treating traumatic injuries.

Coronavirus has not gone away and it is likely we will be living with the virus and its consequences for some time to come. The return of dental services will be gradual, in line with the Welsh Government’s cautious, wider approach to easing lockdown.

As levels of coronavirus stabilise and the restrictions begin to ease, we are looking at how we can restart dental services through three phases:  

  • First phase: Urgent dental centres and dental practices will introduce more treatments and a full range of care, including fillings, will be available at some local dental practices to everyone who urgently needs them and has experienced problems during lockdown. This group of people will be offered assessment and care first.
  • Second phase: A full range of care will be available in more practices and prioritised for people who need treatment, including those who have had treatment delayed because of the pandemic.
  • Third phase: routine check-ups for people with no dental problems and good oral health will be resumed.

The first phase will begin from 1 July, prioritised by need. Strict infection control measures, including social distancing will be in place to protect dental practice staff and people being assessed.

As normal dental services resume, we will continue to work to improve access to dental services for all. Everyone attending a NHS dentist will receive a full review of their teeth and gums as well as a detailed assessment of any known risks, keeping them informed about good oral health and to prevent future issues.

We are very grateful to everyone who has been waiting for treatment during lockdown and will do our best to ensure everyone is treated as soon as it is possible to do so safely. Please continue to be patient and to enable those with the greatest needs to be treated first.

– Dr Colette Bridgman, Chief Dental Officer for Wales