As a valued patient of the practice, I would like to take this opportunity to update you following my last email during the nationwide lockdown. I apologise for the length, but it is extremely important that you read it if you intend to visit us over the next few months.
We are open for business. Most of you will already be aware of this as you may have been contacted by a member of our team over the last couple of weeks to arrange appointments, but we are extremely limited by what we can offer.
As explained during the last message, our guidelines in the UK for providing dental care during COVID19 alert level 3 are far stricter than anywhere else in the world, and unfortunately this is having a huge impact on private dental care nationwide. Furthermore, the costs of equipment to protect you have increased astronomically, and as feared we have been subjected to a rule that means we have to close the surgery for up to an hour following the use of any of the ‘air-powered equipment’ (called fallow time) even if they are only used for a minute. If every appointment requires the use of this equipment, we would be able to treat only 5 patients maximum per day, as opposed to up to 20 pre-Covid.
For this reason, amongst others, a lot of dental practices across the country remain closed, and many that have opened appear to be ‘bending’ the rules and reducing the 1 hour fallow time. Whilst this is unlikely to be putting patients at increased risk, given there is little to no evidence to support the fallow time imposed upon us, there is equally absolutely no evidence that supports the use of extractor fans, “virus killers,” foggers, and other things being suggested as reasons to reduce this time.
Your safety during a visit to my practice at this time is my number one priority, but equally we need to remain viable to guarantee we can continue to provide our high quality services for years to come. It is for this reason we have introduced ‘temporary COVID surcharges.’
Up until now we have been running only one clinic per day, guaranteeing that patients are 100% able to social distance at all times. However, this has meant we have been unable to cater for those patients that prefer to have their check-ups and hygiene appointments together, and furthermore has meant that the staff here are still only working part time.
We need to change this, but I need your help in order to do it safely!
The surgeries are closed for cleaning for a minimum of 10 minutes in between EVERY appointment. This also allows ample time to clean thoroughly, but equally as important allows time for each patient to be escorted around the premises safely, ensuring their paths do not cross with another. However, from 1st September we will be running all clinics alongside each other as we did back in March, meaning that should you attend the practice after that date, it is unlikely you will be the only patient on the premises. Rest assured the team have had ample training and practice to ensure that we are able to operate like this safely and effectively.
So, what has changed?
- Most appointments will need to be paid over the phone on booking. This is to reduce use of the card payment facilities.
- You will need to wait in your car until one of our team members calls you personally and advises you to come in. This is the MOST important procedure to follow to protect yourself and other patients, and whilst the vast majority of patients up until now are able to follow this instruction, we still have patients coming in to the building at the time of their appointment before we have called them. This increases the likelihood of coming in to contact with someone leaving, including delivery drivers and post workers who may not be wearing face coverings.
- We will ask you screening questions either from your car or as you enter the practice. A member of the team will also take your temperature. This should range from 35-37.8°C in most cases. Anything over that and we will politely ask you to rearrange for another day.
- The toilet remains out of use except where absolutely necessary. This is because the whole room needs to be cleaned thoroughly after each use, and we simply do not have the staff numbers to be able to do this regularly.
- The waiting room, which has been closed up until this point, will now be in limited use. The seating has been reduced ensuring that all chairs are at least 2m apart, and they will be cleaned at regular intervals depending how busy the room has been. The only foreseeable reason to use the waiting room at this time will be in between appointments with different clinicians on the same day (for example in between your check up and hygiene appointments).
- You will be required to wear a mask or face covering at all times, with of course the exception of whilst you are in one of the dental surgeries. If you are unable or unwilling to wear a mask, then you MUST advise us of this at the time you book your appointment. This will allow us to arrange an appointment at a time no other patients will be in the practice, and failure to do so will mean we are unable to see you. If you attend the practice and have forgotten your mask, please advise the team member when they call you in your car, as one of our masks can be provided for you (to keep).
What are temporary COVID surcharges?
These are charges we have had to add to normal treatment costs, to ensure the business remains viable and services remain for years to come. As soon as the rules change regarding fallow times, these fees will change or indeed could disappear overnight. The alternative of course is to wait until this happens to avoid to additional fees.
What are the fees?
As a thank you to all patients that continued to pay in to their care plans with me, there are no fees for either the additional PPE cost or the fallow time for non-aerosol generating appointments.
There are also no surcharges being added to Invisalign appointments at this time.
There is no surcharge for hygiene appointments.
All other non AGP appointments, there is a surcharge of £15
For AGP appointments, there is a surcharge of £100
“My hairdresser only charges £2-3” / “£15? That’s a bit much for a mask and gloves?”
Unlike other professions, every dental surgery requires two personnel (a clinician and an assistant). On top of that, the PPE we have to wear is NOT the same as other professions, and whilst they may have increased cleaning between appointments, their overheads are not the same levels as ours.
The surgeries are closed for 10 minutes between non AGP procedures, this is enough time to perform a thorough check up at a normal cost of £42. Each member of the team will be required to wear a medical grade mask, visor, apron and gloves for EACH appointment. I can assure you these fees are not even close to breaking even, let alone generating a profit. Please try and be understanding at this time, and if you would prefer to avoid these added charges then please inform a member of our team and we can place you on a contact list once things change.
Why is the AGP surcharge £100?
As mentioned previously, every time we use either the drill or ultrasonic cleaner, the surgery is out of use for 1 hour from when the drill goes down. For most procedures this is right up to the end of the appointment. My overheads can be up to £200 per hour, however the surgery is closed 1-2pm every day, and from 5pm every evening (or 1pm on Fridays). AGP appointments directly before these times do not have a financial impact on the business. I have therefore decided to limit AGP procedures to 4 per day, meaning that the 2 hour closure of the surgery each day (at a cost of £400) is shared equally between the 4 patients that day.
In addition there is added PPE that we must wear, including full disposable gowns, masks, respirators, visors, gloves and in my case a positive air pressure respirator (or hood). Again there is an increased cost to this.
If in future the hour is reduced, to say 20 or 30 minutes, then this will be directly reflected in the fees overnight, no matter what cost you have previously consented to. The costs will disappear when we are able to run as normal.
When will things go back to normal?
I’m afraid I do not have an answer to this. I was hoping when I wrote my last message to you, that it would be August/ September, but with local lockdowns becoming ever more common, it may not be this year.
Will my appointment be cancelled if we enter local lockdown?
No. Most of you will be aware that Preston was subject to a local lockdown recently, but the operating procedures and PPE we have adopted here mean that even if we enter alert level 4 again nationwide, we will still continue to operate as we are now. It is extremely important however that you continue to follow our procedures and guidance when you do attend.
I am quarantining, can I attend for an appointment?
No, if you have travelled abroad to a destination that requires you to quarantine you must not attend the practice during this time unless it is an emergency. In this instance, we will allocate you a specific time that is more suitable for you to attend. The exception to this is if you have a confirmed negative test since your return to the UK.
I am self-isolating due to age/ medical reasons, can I attend for an appointment?
Yes, we risk assess every single patient when they call to book an appointment, if we (or you) believe you are at a higher risk, then we will choose an appointment for you when it is unlikely there will be any other patients in the building. It is therefore for you to decide whether or not the risk of getting here and back is worth it, but you will be 100% safe whilst you are here.
I know this is particularly lengthy, but thank you to all those who have taken the time to read it. Your overwhelmingly positive feedback to my last email will never be forgotten, and your understanding of the difficulties we are facing as people and a business is very much appreciated by all my team and I.
Please continue to help us by being kind and patient as we work tirelessly to contact all the patients that we had to cancel during the past few months, and those overdue recall appointments.
Continue to stay safe, it can only get better!
Andy, and all the team at Holly Dental.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our team by email firstname.lastname@example.org