The College of General Dentistry and British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) are warning of a potential catastrophe for dental patients if the planned implementation of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all patient-facing staff in England is not deferred.
Regulations came into effect earlier this month that will make it unlawful from 1 April 2022 for a CQC-regulated employer to deploy staff who are not fully vaccinated to work face-to-face with patients. The rules, which will apply to NHS and private providers alike, will effectively force dental practices to dismiss staff who have not received their first dose of an approved coronavirus vaccine by 3 February, and second dose by 31 March, unless they are clinically exempt, under 18, taking part in a COVID vaccine trial or can be redeployed into a non-patient-facing role.
Both the College and BADN are unequivocal in their encouragement of dental professionals to take up the offer of coronavirus vaccination. However, interim results from the BADN COVID Vaccination Survey, based on the responses of over 1,000 practising dental nurses to date, show that 26% have not yet received two vaccination doses, and 24% will not have been double-vaccinated by the deadline.
Responses to date are similar for both members and non-members of the association. If the findings are representative of the dental nursing profession as a whole – which makes up half the dental workforce – this would suggest an impending reduction in available dental staff in England of up to 12,000, or 12%, plus any dentists, dental therapists, dental hygienists, clinical dental technicians or orthodontic therapists who may not be double-vaccinated.
The survey also found that 32% of respondents so far said they do not intend to take up the offer of a ‘booster’ dose, suggesting that staffing problems will only increase if the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is later amended to require three doses.
Dr Abhi Pal, President of the College of General Dentistry, and Jacqui Elsden, President of the British Association of Dental Nurses and an Associate Member of the College, said:
“Dental nurses are a vital part of the team without whom dental care cannot be delivered, and the BADN’s data will only strengthen existing concerns in practices across the country.
“Tens of millions of dental appointments have been missed during the pandemic, but while welcome additional funding has just been announced by NHS England to help tackle the backlog during February and March, losing up to a quarter of dental nurses from 1 April would lead to a precipitous reduction in care provision, quickly reversing any progress made and leaving millions of dental patients once again unable to get the treatment they need. We urge the government to defer implementation of the vaccination requirement for dental employers in order to avert a calamitous own goal.”
Tonight at 7pm, a week ahead of the deadline to take up the first vaccination dose, the College is hosting Vaccination: your questions answered.
Free for all dental professionals to watch live, speakers include Professor Jason Leitch, (Senior Clinical Advisor to the Scottish Government, CGDent Ambassador and regular explainer of all matters COVID in the broadcast media), and Sarah Buxton (HR and Employment Solicitor and legal advisor to the Association of Dental Administrators and Managers and the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy). Register here
The full results of the BADN COVID Vaccination Survey will be announced in due course. The survey remains open and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VaccinationsSurvey