Coronavirus COVID-19 Information & Update

Update 12th July 2021:

We hope that you are continuing to keep well during these times of COVID-19. It is now coming up to 16 months of working within COVID-19 guidelines in dental practice and communication from the Department for Health continues to be limited. We had hoped to contact you sooner, possibly with some good news about reverting back to a more relaxed and efficient way of working, especially ahead of 19th July – the so-called “Freedom day” announced by the government. This is the latest from the British Dental Association regarding the current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and whether any change is imminent:

England: No Immediate Change to Dental SOPs

The Prime Minister’s confirmation earlier this week that there will be a relaxation of general pandemic restrictions in England from Monday 19th July 2021 has raised many questions from members about how this will impact on dental practices. The simple answer at the moment is we don’t know, for now however, current IPC guidance remains in place. We have been pressing for clarity from NHS England this week but there is no indication that there will be any immediate change in the Standard Operating Procedure.

Dentists and their teams are asking whether they can or should insist on the continued use of face coverings, and whether they should persist with social distancing. We are awaiting further Government guidance next week, with the Secretary of State for Health so far having told parliament that it would make sense for guidelines such as the two metre rule to continue in “some specific settings”, including medical environments. We will continue to update our FAQs when we receive further news.

In the meantime, the Scottish CDO confirmed yesterday that there would be a review of the overarching UK infection prevention and control guidance with an associated consultation in August with revised recommendations published in September 2021. This will include a revision of the dental specific appendix in line with the revised general IPC document. There will also be a risk assessment template for dental practices to support the implementation of any new guidance.

So, until we hear anything different we will be continuing to work under the current, restrictive, SOPs which will still include:

– Wearing of face masks

– Closed door policy

– Social distancing

– Fallow time restrictions

– Enhanced ventilation

We really hope that you understand our position with this – we really want to move forwards in the safest possible way and also to look after each patients expectations of how we can best care for them – some patients are still very afraid of catching this virus while some believe that we shouldn’t have any restrictions at all. As a result of poor communication from those leading us through this crisis we find ourselves very much stuck in the middle.

However, on the plus side, we are open and able to provide a full range of services within the current guidelines so please do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance or routine dental care – we continue to be here for you.

Best wishes,

Kevin & Richard

Update 6th January 2021:

We hope that you are all doing well at the start of this new year and let’s hope it proves to be better than 2020.

The latest COVID-19 safety level has been set to Tier 5, effective from 5th January 2021. We are writing to you to let you know that this does not change the level of support and service that we can offer to you. Dental practices continue to be able to operate as long as they have robust Standard Operating Procedures in place. Because of the hard work, great staff and further investment in ventilation equipment we have made at the practice, we are able to continue to operate throughout Tier 5 regulations.

In addition, we have recruited a new dentist – Steve Johnson to the practice. Steve is an experienced dentist and is proving to be very popular with patients because of his great clinical range, approachable manner and clear communication skills.

With that in mind, it is fine to keep existing appointments. If you need our help or support, we will be there for you. Routine and emergency appointments will continue to be available.

Please continue to stay safe, wash hands and maintain social distancing and we look forward to seeing you all sometime this year.

Best wishes.

Kevin & Richard

Update 4th November 2020:

We hope that you and your family remain well during these difficult times.

We are writing to reassure you that despite the approaching second lockdown on Thursday, Higgins & Winter Dental Practice will remain open and will be unaffected by the new restrictions. Clarification of this was received late last night, and we are happy to report that we will be here for you if you need us. This is the right decision as it follows many months of hard work from the team to recover from the initial shutdown and set up the highest standards of cross infection control that the profession has ever seen.

We are continuing to see patients  and, of course, are following the same strict COVID-19 protection protocols that we have had in place for many months.

If you are worried about the latest COVID-19 situation and do not want to attend for an appointment during lockdown, or wish to cancel or reschedule any existing appointment then we fully understand. Please email us on [email protected] and we will be happy to arrange this.

Please continue to be reassured that we are here if you need us.

Take great care and stay safe,

Kevin & Richard

Update 21st September 2020:

We are writing to you to give you an update of the progress that we are making at Higgins & Winter Dental Practice. It is great to be back looking after patients again and due to the hard work of all the team, working against some very challenging regulatory restrictions, we have managed to restore a more comprehensive range of treatments. We had hoped to write to you sooner, but we were waiting on some further guidelines that may have allowed us to increase capacity further and implement further appointment slots. However, we are still waiting for this and, rather than continue to wait and delay getting in touch with you, we thought it better to drop you a line now.

Since returning to work in June we have worked through a plan to deal with the back log of emergency and urgent cases. This is now cleared. We are now in a position to deal with more routine aspects of care and are rolling out some waiting list initiatives to bring  the remaining recall appointments up to date. We anticipate having worked through these within the next 6-8 weeks. It is worth mentioning though that, under the current regulatory guidelines, that this is not business as usual and these well-laid plans could easily be blown off course by changes in the government response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As we move forward, we really appreciate that there are still a lot of patients who are doing everything that they can to protect themselves from this virus and who may still feel uncomfortable leaving the house or visiting public places. We would like to reassure them that we are doing everything that we can to maintain and promote the highest levels of cross infection control and that we are as COVID safe as we can possibly be. That said, if these patients choose to delay their routine care, then we respect that decision completely. We would like to reassure them that we will be there for them when they feel the time is right to attend.

Moving forward we will deliver more capacity for routine care but, again due to the limitations imposed by the current regulations, we will be prioritizing access to routine appointments in the following way:

  1. Patients of the monthly membership schemes will have first access to extra sessions. These patients have continued to support us throughout this crisis and we really want to show that we appreciate that.
  2. Private patients who pay on attendance will then come next.
  3. Child NHS appointments will only be given to those in urgent need of care. This is not something that we do lightly but follows the latest advice to NHS providers (we currently have a very small NHS contract for child-only treatments) stating that NHS care should be directed towards urgent NHS cases at this time.

For those patients who are not currently members of the monthly membership scheme there is the opportunity to join this – simply email the practice and let us know. This would allow you greater access in these uncertain times, a range of discounts and ongoing emergency support.

We will start to contact patients via phone and email to make these appointments in the coming days and weeks. Please try not to contact us for these appointments-we are working hard to get to you!

It is important to say that during this time, emergency and urgent problems will be dealt promptly and in the normal way, regardless of how you are seen at the practice (NHS, Private or Dental Plan). If you have an emergency or urgent dental problem, please contact us immediately and you will be prioritized for treatment and/or advice.

Finally, we would like to thank you again for the amazing support that you all have given us during these really difficult times. We have been really moved by the kind messages and level of support we have had.

Best wishes

Kevin & Richard

Update 15th July 2020:

We wanted to write again to keep you informed and involved with what is going on at Higgins and Winter Dental Practice during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

We are pleased to report that the practice is now open again and seeing the patients who need us most. We were one of only 20% of dental practices nationally able to open on June 8th and since then, we have been busy helping out emergency and urgent care patients. The behind-the-scenes work to allow us to open has been enormous and it is a credit to the team that we are able to do so.

However, despite this huge effort, because of regulations imposed upon us our capacity to see patients remains reduced. This is due to several factors, including social distancing, staff risk assessments, massive PPE requirements and the time limitations on the use of the surgery between patients. This “fallow time” when the surgery is required to be empty for 1 hour following certain treatments is poorly understood and researched. We are hoping that this will change in the coming weeks and in the meantime are introducing evidence-based procedures to mitigate this. All of these restrictions apply while the national pandemic alert is at Level 3.

As a result our current capacity has been reduced to around 20-30% of our normal caseload. For this very reason, some dental practices are choosing not to provide treatment at all. However, we think that is only right and fair to be there for you in the fullest capacity that the regulations allow, hence our opening and the provision of dental care. We are working very hard to grow this and extra sessions are being introduced every week. We feel confident, moving forward, that we can begin to return to an increased capacity for care. Additionally, if the national risk level is reduced to Level 2 then we can return to a more standard, pre-COVID-19, level of care.

Despite all this we have successfully managed to treat many patients who needed support and will continue to do so. A return to more routine care will occur when we have been able to look after all those patients who need us most at the moment. This includes those in pain, who have urgent issues and importantly, those patients who have had treatment delayed. We are taking steps to contact all those who require these appointments and if we haven’t already, we will be in touch to arrange this. If you need us urgently, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are really hoping to resume routine care in the coming weeks. When we do, we will prioritise and where possible add extra capacity for the following patients:

  • Those patients who are currently on dental plans with us
  • Those who are most overdue for their routine appointment

We have been moved by the level of support that we have had so far. The loyalty and understanding of those patients on membership plans has been both incredible and welcome. In order to show how much your support means, we will be looking at ways to reward this loyalty as we move back to normal service.

In the meantime, please bear with us. We are working in very difficult circumstances-often wearing full PPE for much of the day and having to contend with regulations that by their very nature slow us down. For those of you that have visited the practice recently, you would have seen this first-hand-the new normal is very different, but vitally important to keep us all safe.

Safety continues to be our number one priority. We have introduced and invested in several systems that allow us to keep you safe and mitigate the current risks. We have embraced technology in order to make the practice even better in the future. This includes systems to allow us to move to a cashless system, the use of electronic check-in/triage and remote video consultations. We feel that this investment is vital moving forward.

So to summarise:

  • Thank you for your kind words, support and understanding – these are testing times for all of us
  • The practice is open, and we are busy seeing emergency, urgent cases and those who have had treatment delayed
  • Our current capacity is reduced
  • A return to routine care will occur as soon as we can, we will prioritise the most overdue patients and those on our dental plans
  • We have introduced new remote measures to keep you safe and reduce the number of visits required
  • We are no longer accepting cash but continue to accept credit and debit cards as well as having remote and contactless payment systems.

We will continue to move onward towards a return to the highest levels of personalised dental care. In the meantime, take care and look after each other.

Best wishes.

Kevin and Richard

Update 2nd June 2020:

**Important COVID-19/Re-Opening Update**

In the coming days and weeks, we will be contacting you further to keep you up-to-date with what will be happening at Higgins and Winter Dental Practice as we begin the process of returning to seeing patients face to face.

We were advised on Thursday, 28th May that dental practices would be allowed to resume face-to-face contacts with patients from the 8th of June. There were no other details given to us for how this would be done safely and we are awaiting further communication from the Chief Dental Officer. The British Dental Association (BDA) was due to receive that advice today but, as yet, we are still waiting. If we continue to wait, we could be in a position where we are unable to open safely and quickly to look after you all.

The Faculty of General Dental Practitioners (FGDP UK), a well-respected body of peers who are part of the Royal College Surgeons, published guidance regarding a safe return to practice yesterday (Monday). This is detailed, informative and a document that adopts a risk-based approach to getting back to practice safely. We will be basing a safe return to work around this document.

We have attached a link to the document for your information so that you can see what we are basing our return to work upon. Don’t worry if you’re not up to reading the whole thing (it is 69 pages long!) as we are here to read, interpret and implement this on your behalf;

The approach from the FGDP(UK) is about assessing and mitigating the risk:

– Firstly, In society;

With a higher prevalence and spread of COVID-19 within society then more safeguards are needed at the practice to avoid transmission. This will help control the spread of the disease at the community level. Conversely, the lower level of spread then the less safeguards are required and the closer we get to restoring life as normal. At the moment the national risk level is relatively high (4 out of 5)

-Secondly, In the practice;

When the COVID risk is at 4 we need to be very cautious to ensure we do not contribute to the spread of the disease from patient to staff and vice versa. This means that more PPE (personal protective equipment) is needed, lower volumes of patients can be seen, the range of treatments are restricted and even higher levels of cross infection control are advised within the surgery setting. Similarly, there is a need for increased caution when treating vulnerable members of society. This may mean that more vulnerable patients would be advised to defer treatment until the risk level drops. As the COVID risk decreases over time, it therefore follows that more treatment options become available and more patients can be seen.

We are now facing huge pressures to return to work as normal to deal with the backlog of patients needing emergency, urgent and routine dental care. This is not helped by the declaration that “dentistry is back” or by announcing dental practices are opening on a given date without the support and advice we need.

We have to stress that in the short term, things will look very different at the practice, with fewer patients being seen and priority given to those patients who need us most. Beyond this, if we all continue to play our part, then we can hope for a falling national COVID risk, a relaxation of the cautionary safeguards and a return to a dental service that is much closer to the one we had before COVID-19.

So, based on the above, we will be moving forward in the following way:

  • If you have routine appointments booked over the next 2 weeks (booked in advance of lockdown) these will be deferred. We will be in touch with you shortly to book new appointments but please do not attend at these times.
  • Those patients who have experienced true dental emergencies or severe dental pain will be contacted and seen as a priority from next week.
  • Those patients who have urgent (non-emergency) problem such as chipped teeth, lost fillings & loose crowns or retainer wires will be seen from the 15th June

Following that we will begin to restore more routine levels of care as allowed by the COVID risk level and guidance from the FGDP(UK).

At this time we will offer more appointment time to those patients on monthly membership plans. We need to recognise the level of support that they have given us during this stressful time and reward this as best we can. We have really, really, appreciated this support.

We will be contacting patients in these groups directly-if this is you, we have detailed records, so there is no need to call. If, however, you want to let us know of any changes in your clinical circumstances then please email us on [email protected]

So, thank you, in advance, for your understanding. We have interpreted the guidance with safety as our number one priority. We will continue to operate in a manner that avoids unnecessary risk and looks after our patients and our team. In doing this we hope to avoid contributing to the spread of the disease and have a speedier return to life as normal.

We will be contacting you again later this week to inform you of the new operating procedures that the practice will be using. These will include pre-appointment screening, the use of video consultations and a safe arrival/departure procedure at the practice. More details will follow.

In the meantime, we thank you again for your patience and understanding. We have never come across anything like this in our careers but we are determined to continue to provide the best dental care in the safest possible way in these very challenging times.

With all best wishes

Kevin & Richard

Update 29th May 2020:

Thank you for your continued support, patience and understanding during this uncertain time.

As you may be aware the Chief Dental Officer of England, last night announced that Dental Practices are permitted to reopen from 8th June 2020. Although this is great news, we are still awaiting further details about how this will work at a practice level.

Please be re-assured there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes at present. We are well placed with a return to work on or around this date. However, we need further information from the government and regulators to determine exactly what treatments we can and cannot do to ensure the highest levels of safety and infection control for you and our staff.

Please be re-assured we will be in touch again shortly regarding scheduling appointments.

In the meantime, if you have any direct queries about routine appointments, please email [email protected]. Similarly, if you have a specific dental emergency call 07961140066 for assistance.

With all best wishes

Kevin & Richard

Update 12th May 2020:

At the very start of lock-down we had to work hard to transition towards the new restrictions. From that point Richard and Kevin set up a 7-day a week support and assistance service. If any patients have problems or queries they would simply call the practice as normal but would be put through to the emergency support system and would receive advice, support of further assistance as needed. This has proven to be a success with over 100 calls being dealt with in that time. In doing this we have reduced the strain on the NHS 111 service and continued to maintain a safety net for our patients. This service continues and if you need any help then either call the surgery on 01661 872 979 or email on [email protected].

More recently, and in addition to the above support scheme, we have begun planning for our return to work. We do not know exactly when this will be as we are waiting on central government to tell us, but we expect it to be within the next few weeks. However, if we begin planning now then we will be able to ensure the most rapid return to service possible.

With regards to this current stage of planning it is hard to know what will be required in delivery of service. However, we are addressing all the areas of concern including: appropriate PPE, social distancing, triaging and assessment of patients and special arrangements for those patients shielding or at high risk due to COVID-19. It is a huge task to get this right but we are dedicated to continue to provide the highest standard of personalised dental care in a way that is safe for our patients and our team. This is our priority.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues and healthcare workers who have banded together to fight this pandemic. However, just as importantly we would like to thank our patients for the tremendous support, encouragement and understanding that you have given us. We really cannot express how much this means to us and we look forward to seeing you all at the practice as soon as regulations allow.

Best wishes

Richard and Kevin

Update 31st March 2020:

To support our patients during the COVID-19 crisis, we have set up a telephone support line for all our patients. This will be operated by the partners Kevin and Richard with help from Emma and Amar from 9AM-5PM, 7 days a week and will offer you personalised assessment, advice and support.

If medications are needed we can arrange for these to be collected from a local pharmacy. In the small number of true dental emergencies we can advise on what the next stages of your treatment will be at that time. Further to that if you need to talk through any dental related matters or even order more supplies of oral hygiene products, then just give us a call and we will be there for you. Calls outside of these hours will be dealt with the following day.

If you need assistance then please call 01661 872 979 (our usual practice number) or email [email protected] (this is the same email address that we use for your appointment reminders and other direct correspondence) and we will be happy to help. If required, please leave a message, and we will contact you as soon as possible. For everyone’s protection do not come to the practice and please continue to follow the broader guidelines from NHS England regarding personal well-being, hand hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation at this time.

We will update this page if there is any change to this short-term, temporary arrangement and hope to back to normal working patterns as soon as possible.

Please keep yourselves and your families safe and we look forward to seeing you in the near future.

With all good wishes,

Richard and Kevin

Update 23rd March 2020:

We have received the long-awaited guidance from the Chief Dental Officer of England and NHS England regarding the provision of dental care in Primary care (general dental practice) during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A link to it is below.

As a result there are several key recommendations that we will need to implement with immediate effect:

1. We will need to cancel or re-schedule all routine or check up appointments for all people who are classed as being in a vulnerable group. These include those people over 70 and those with underlying medical problems. If you are 70 or over or you qualify for a free flu jab, this is you. Please see the link below for further guidance on the definitions of “vulnerable groups”

2. For those patients not deemed to be vulnerable and under the age of 70, we will need to cancel or reschedule any treatment that creates a spray (or aerosol). This will cover a very large number of routine treatments that we would normally carry out on any given day in practice. If we need to cancel or re-arrange any treatments, then please don’t worry. There is a massive amount of work going on here at the practice to work through all of our schedules and to contact our patients as needed.

3. Additionally, we would like to invite any patient who has a routine appointment with us to re-schedule if they wish to do so. Reducing travel, social distancing and contact have all been strongly recommended and we are obviously keen to reduce risk wherever we can.

For all treatments that are rescheduled we will have assessed them to ensure that we can give you peace of mind that it is safe to do so. We will endeavour to re-arrange these appointments for a time when normal services resumes (currently unknown) but we also promise to be there for you. It is really important to know that we will be there for you if you need help. There is a huge financial deficit being created across the country in most all businesses. In spite of this it is our intention to offer support and help to all of our patients as the guidelines allow throughout this time.

We are still open and will still be providing urgent” and necessary care that cannot be delayed”Please call us if you have an issue and we will do our best to either give advice over the phone or arrange an emergency appointment. To avoid the potential spread of the virus, please wherever possible, do not attend the practice without an appointment and use telephone or email as the preferred method of communication.

We appreciate this may well be an inconvenience to you, but we are acting in your, our and the wider communities best interests. We remain committed to playing our part in supporting our patients during this virus pandemic.

In the meantime, please stay safe, follow government guidelines and look out for each other. 

With our best wishes,
Richard and Kevin and all the team