Running a local dental committee during COVID-19
Andrew Taylor and Melissa Taylor give their experience during the coronavirus pandemic as chair and secretary of the local dental committee in Cornwall.
There has been, and continues to be, so much uncertainty during this time. We are all information hungry and never before have we needed local dental committees so much to help forge links and build unity. Our strength in Cornwall has been the unity, not only between levy paying members but also our private colleagues. We have used this time to forge new links with colleagues and together we are stronger.
As husband and wife and chair and secretary of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LDC for the past 10 years, we were planning on stepping down in April this year. We run a busy practice, which has grown rapidly to eight surgeries and now takes up much of our time. However, as the coronavirus pandemic began, our knowledge over this time was needed and the committee decided we should continue in our roles to engage with the local area team and increase communication with our wider dental network. We are now busier than ever.
Local dental committee meetings
As chair there were daily urgent care group virtual meetings with the area team at the start of this pandemic. These meetings now take place twice weekly and help keep the flow of information, including about hubs and triaging patients, between dentists and the area team. We put colleagues’ views to the area team and apply as much pressure as we can to open the urgent dental care (UDC) hubs. We urgently need more UDC hubs to cope with the increasing numbers of patients in pain and the under-met need. The limiting factor is PPE.
As we entered a new era of dentists telephone triaging patients and referring to hubs we needed to support our colleagues in understanding how this process worked. A simple guide to referring was created and disseminated by email, website and Whatsapp. However, we also knew there would be more specific questions from dentists throughout this process. We needed to help support the area team also by disseminating this information effectively. Therefore we set up a telephone triage ‘helpline’ manned by different members of the committee Monday to Friday 9-5.30.
We are available to answer any questions or concerns at all from our colleagues. Alongside this we brought together a network of ‘advisers’, which included specialists and dentists with areas of special interest. This helped provide us with information quickly when needed for specific tricky questions. A Whatsapp group was found to be the best way to achieve this information rapidly. The LDC triaging phone line has been very successful. It’s been a hugely successful line in the 35 days since opening, receiving:
- 88 phone calls in total
- Average of 2.5 calls per day
- 30 phone calls in the first week
- Eight phone calls this week.
This shows there is now a lot more clarity from dentists around triaging, but still a need for the phone line. We will continue to man this line Monday to Friday with committee members as long as dentists need it to ask questions.
LDCs have not been provided with performer contact information despite requests for many years for this information. So we needed to use all other options to connect with colleagues. We set up a Whatsapp group early in this crisis for all local dental professionals to help with communication. We now have over 220 people on the group. The GDC in this crisis offered to disseminate information from the LDCs via email. We then send updates through this method to all GDC-registered dentists in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This ensured that all private and NHS dentists alike were receiving our updates.
We keep our website up-to-date and our email list now has over 200 subscribers.
As many of us have found virtual meetings are actually a very effective way to communicate. Despite their current necessity, they will most likely be the way we continue to function going forwards. LDC meetings are currently every two weeks, such is the rapidly changing information.
LDCs in our south-west region are now much closer and we work together to ensure we listen to and support all our dental colleagues. Chairs in the south west meet twice a week remotely to discuss current thinking. It is amazing to see all the dentists in this region come together and support each other. We are in a better place with communication links as a result of this pandemic and we look forward to continue building on this in the future.
Andrew Taylor is chair and Melissa Taylor is secretary of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Dental Committee.
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