A DENTIST at one of York’s largest practices has warned it would be "madness and irresponsible" to return to business as usual from next week.

Practices suspended routine care on March 25 in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus but can reopen from Monday, June 8, with appropriate safety measures.

Currently, patients needing emergency dental treatment are being advised remotely, and have to be referred to an Urgent Dental Care (UDC) hub.

However, Aslam Khan, principal dentist at Clock House Dental, York, said although more treatment options would be available there than in recent weeks, those who could wait would still have to wait – due to a “massive shortage” of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Clock House in Heworth has about 15,000 NHS and private patients, and can normally see up to 300 patients a day, with eight dentists and one hygienist. During the lockdown, it has been operating as a UDC, providing emergency treatment to patients from 12 practices. It is one of about 90 UDCs in Yorkshire, which have treated more than 2,000 patients between them within four weeks.

Dr Khan praised the hubs for "working tirelessly" together to follow the guidelines and provide emergency care. “It was most frustrating for us as a dental community. We have patients we have been treating for years and they were suffering. We are all eager to get back to work. It is frustrating and upsetting.”

He added: “Clock House has nine surgeries and multiple waiting rooms so we can implement social distancing to an extent. Normally, a dentist would see between 20 and 30 patients a day, depending on how many hours they do. At this moment we are far from seeing that level because of implementing guidance as well as the infection control.

“Every surgery gets cleaned before and after a patient comes in. Our infection control is second to none. We are already implementing the guidelines.”

Dr Khan said they would continue to operate on an urgent care basis, with restrictions on the number of patients permitted in the building at any time. However, more treatment options would be available than during recent weeks.

“It is not as easy as opening on June 8,” added Dr Khan. “We are operating on an urgent basis because PPE is limited. The stocks are depleted. We have to be strict. Those who can wait will still have to wait until PPE stock levels are back. It is frustrating for patients, but we share that impatience.”

Before February, practices were able to buy 100 surgical masks for £6, with next-day delivery. “Today, that’s £40. That’s if we can get them. And they take three weeks to be delivered,” said Dr Khan. Clinicians using a drill have to use FFP3 masks - tight-fitting masks, with each brand requiring a face fit test to ensure it fully protects the wearer.

“You can’t operate a surgery like this. At Clock House we would normally have 250 patients in a day. There’s no way we can operate within current guidance on that. It is madness and irresponsible. Before, we could buy as much PPE as we wanted, but at the moment it is rationed because everyone needs it. It is testing times for everyone.”