Many healthcare providers are still at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus, and for them the thought of ‘business as usual’ is unthinkable. But in some geographies, whether because the pandemic has already wrought its worst, or because careful and early preparation minimised its effect, some healthcare practices are beginning to get to grips with the ‘new normal’ and opening their doors to non-emergency patients for the first time in many weeks.
This is particularly true in dentistry – and a look around Europe shows there are vastly differing approaches depending on what side of a country border a practice falls. Often, the judgements made about what is, and isn’t, deemed appropriate hinge not just on the prevailing medical advice. The availability of PPE, the attitude of the country towards the virus (shaped, in part, by how badly it was affected), how cautious the government is (motivated sometimes as much by an economic imperative as for public health reasons), and in some quarters the need for operators to make money all play a part. How can what is safe in one country be unsafe 10 miles down the road, and vice versa – even if the border is nominally shut?
In Germany, which took early and decisive measures against COVID, dentists never truly shut their doors and business, we hear, hovered around half of last year’s levels and is all but ‘normal’ now. Meanwhile, in France, which was hit much harder, practitioners are wearing expensive protective garb and extensive regulations protect patients and staff alike, following the reopening on May 15.
The UK is a muddle unto itself. In England, the authorities want it to be business as usual as of last Monday – but not all practitioners welcome this. English dentists are now authorised to conduct AGP (aerosol generating procedures) which produce spit and blood – something HBI hears cannot easily or cheaply be done safely and which may not be advisable at all. North of the border in Scotland, such treatments in normal practices remain banned.
The new normal, it seems, comes in all shapes and sizes. But we can see the direction of travel, even if it is being travelled at different speeds.
It is impossible to say what the consequences of this pandemic will be for the way healthcare is delivered in six months, let alone in the coming year. But it seems certain that the new normal will skew towards an increased acceptance and usage of telemedicine, higher and better-defined standards of cleanliness and distancing for patients (the latter, where possible), and a reluctant acceptance that in a connected world where a virus can travel the globe in a matter of weeks, this pandemic may not be the last we face in the 21st century. Next time, hopefully, should there be one, we will all be better prepared.We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.