COVID-19 Q&A

Deputy head of the DDU Leo Briggs and dento-legal advisers Alison Large and Sarah Ide respond to questions raised in our COVID-19 webinar.

Indemnity

Do I need to tell you about changes to the way I provide general dentistry in the current pandemic?

If you have active membership with the DDU for the number of sessions you are planning to work (either remotely or face to face, triaging or providing advice only), you will have adequate indemnity in place and do not need to contact us about your indemnity provision or membership.

However, we do understand that it may be difficult for you to estimate the number of sessions you will be working during the pandemic. If the total number of sessions you work changes, you can update us at your renewal.

Can I do routine treatment, for example examinations and scaling, as part of general dentistry during this pandemic?

It’s important to keep up to date with the latest authoritative guidance on what treatment is safe to offer and carry out, as well as on the precautions your patients should take before attending for treatment.

The circumstances for each practice will be different. Each practice will need to carefully assess its facilities, the needs of patients who need urgent treatment and patients who have had their treatment delayed before you decide if it’s possible to return to routine care.

Can I provide cosmetic treatments at the moment?

The most important factor dental professionals need to consider is how safe is it for patients to attend for purely cosmetic treatment. Your decision will be influenced by local conditions and guidance for your area.

Whether you provide treatment or not, you should ensure that you record your decision making process at the time and ideally refer in your notes to the specific guidance that you have relied upon.

Communication

When I wear a respirator mask it is difficult to communicate with patients who are hard of hearing. How can I ensure that I have got their consent for treatment?

It is important that you make reasonable changes to the way you communicate with patients who have a hearing disability. You could consider explaining to patients the limitations of any communication before you place your respirator mask on. Try to ensure that you have adequate time for any discussions before you start generating an aerosol.

When treatment planning, consider following up any discussions with the patient in writing and give the patient the chance to ask any questions either verbally or in writing, before the treatment starts. Keep records of the way you obtained consent for the patient.

Practice management

If I can only provide a remote consultation, would I be breaching any GDC requirements?

The GDC are aware that each registrant will be facing difficult decisions during the pandemic and have said in its blog Responding to COVID-19: providing treatment in uncertain times, 26 March 2020, that it ‘has no interest in second guessing clinical judgements which take account of [its] guidance and are based on an appropriate assessment of the risks involved.’

However, it is ideal to keep a record of why it is not possible for you to undertake a face to face consultation and to regularly review your decisions. You should ensure that you provide clear and consistent communications to your patients regarding the level of care that can be provided from your practice at any time during the pandemic.

Standard operating procedures and responsibilities

I work in more than one practice and the standard operating procedures differ. Which procedure should I follow?

Each practice is likely to face a unique set of conditions and challenges. However, you should be comfortable with the standard operating procedures in place at each place of work.

If you have any queries or concerns about the standard operating procedures in place, you should discuss them with your line manager or practice owner. If you have further concerns, members can contact the DDU and speak to one of our dento-legal advisers for further support and advice. 

Whose responsibility is it to take a patient’s medical history or ask screening questions prior to a visit to the practice?

Each practice will have different methods for obtaining relevant information from patients but it is the responsibility of the treating clinician to ensure they have all the information they need to treat a patient safely. If the role is delegated to another member of the dental team, then they should be suitably trained to gather and record the information. 

Consent

Is it OK for me to accept verbal consent to treat a patient during the pandemic?

When a patient gives verbal consent to treatment, you should make a note in their clinical record of the advice given, including any risks, benefits and likely outcomes, and the fact that the patient has understood and consented. This is particularly important where treatment is significant and not routine.

However, it is mandatory to have a written consent form, which should be signed by the patient or their representative, when treatment is being provided under sedation or general anaesthetic. See our quick guide to consent.

This page was correct at publication on 06/01/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

You may also be interested in

News

Returning to practice

Some dental practices are starting to resume face-to-face care for patients, and it's understandable to have questions about the dento-legal implications.

Read more
News

Reducing the dento-legal burden during the pandemic

Certain complaint handling and regulatory investigations have been paused or amended during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Read more
News

Dental practice during a pandemic

Practices across the country are rising to the challenge of providing essential dental care to patients during the COVID-19 emergency...

Read more