30 Mar 2020  •  Blog, Covid-19, Dental Landscape  •  9min read By  • Simon Thackeray

A weekend in the life of a dentist during COVID-19

It’s Friday, and my first session this week as the duty dentist. My three associates – Julia, Rich and Andy – have already done their stints, but this is the first one that will be run completely remotely. We’ve all now got secure virtual private networking to our work server, and the phones now divert in turn to our mobiles. We can therefore access all the normal patient information when triaging our patients. I also spent the previous day making sure we now have a live webchat on the website for anyone to contact me that way as well, as well as publicising my personal work email address. I don’t think there is much more I can do now to make it easy for patients to contact me, short of giving them my home address.

The divert appears to work as a patient has now contacted me, someone I’ve been seeing for 24 years. We had a quick chat, he got some reassurance, and we had a laugh about just how random the world has become.

Now to set up for a guest spot on for Colin Campbell and Shaun Sellars’s ‘Incisive Decisive’ podcast. I’m actually getting a bit worried that people might be getting fed up of hearing my voice as I seem to have done a lot of talking in the last seven days. As I’m setting up the laptop, there seems to be a few random bits of electronics on the floor, and the Beagle has a suspiciously guilty look on his face. It would appear that he doesn’t understand that a FitBit is to be worn and not eaten.

It’s always great talking to Colin, and I seem to have had more conversations with him this last week than I have with my wife. I’m always left with a positivity after our discussions, and today is no different. Shaun is also a very astute guy, and together I know the three of us actually enjoyed making this despite the subject matter. I also managed not to libel anybody!

The podcast if you’re interested is here : https://incisivedecisive.podbean.com/e/id-special-covid-19-with-simon-thackeray/

Another Zoom meeting with the clients of Kevin Rose at Rose and Co. People are crying out for answers and there aren’t any at the moment, but as we go through each day, the mechanisms for how to claim things like furlough and the business interruption loans slowly become clearer. We’re actually only really a week into this acute phase of lockdown but it seems like forever. I don’t think I’m the only person who is thinking this is like that weird bit between Christmas and New Year.

People are crying out for answers and there aren’t any at the moment, but as we go through each day, the mechanisms for how to claim things like furlough and the business interruption loans slowly become clearer.

The afternoon was spent trying (vainly) to get some form of workable email/mail-based emergency prescription protocol in place with local pharmacies. They don’t seem to have been made aware that dental practices are not supposed to be seeing patients face to face. Just as I finally think its sorted, I get an email saying we can’t actually send prescriptions to them at all by email, and the patient will have to pick them up from me. Good luck with that as I’m now 20 miles from the practice. I’ve basically decided to send the patients to the pharmacy, and they can explain to the patient why they won’t do an emergency dispensation which is within their scope of practice.

There’s time for a video to my patients from the back garden, filmed by my son in between his online social life. I’m trying to keep in contact with my patients as much as possible at this time, because their lives are also as upside down as ours. If I can just put some stability in there with regard to part of their health care, and keep them up to date with how changes to how we have to work might affect them, then it might just take one tiny bit of pressure off them at this time. I think many patients are not being looked after as well as they could be by their practices (both NHS and private), and there may well be a degree of patients voting with their feet after all this is over. I certainly won’t be putting myself in that situation though, so I’ll keep giving them information as I get it.

I’m trying to keep in contact with my patients as much as possible at this time, because their lives are also as upside down as ours. If I can just put some stability in there with regard to part of their health care, and keep them up to date with how changes to how we have to work might affect them, then it might just take one tiny bit of pressure off them at this time.

The evening brings an emergency LDC meeting to discuss the pharmacy situation and also the response to opening up the emergency treatment hubs. I’m not going to say too much here at the moment as this is a developing situation. However, my opinion regarding aspects of NHS Dental commissioning in the past has been published previously (it’s usually not a favourable opinion!), and I’m not sure anything is being done to change that opinion. I hope to be proven wrong…

Finally…the pub. And before you think I’m being irresponsible, this was the first meeting of the Virtual Pub group with three of my friends. The usual sarcastic banter took place, and as usual my mate Pete didn’t get to buy a round of drinks.

As I finally think that’s it for the day with regard to messaging, I find a friend and respected colleague has been placed on a ventilator as a result of Covid-19. It all just gets a little bit more real yet again.

Saturday morning and a lie in. There is actually nothing at all to do now. All the systems to remotely triage are in place, and my associate Rich is manning the phones. All I’ve got to do is shift about a tonne of builder’s rubble that is stopping me closing the gate to the drive. We’re mid-way through some fairly dramatic building work at home, and this week the builder (who has become a friend) had to lay off his entire workforce as all the jobs were either stopping (like mine) or because the builders merchants weren’t open. They were supposed to move the rubble into a skip, but the skip company told him earlier this week they were suspending operations. I’ve already got visions of building a fortress from the various random bits of building stuff they have left, in preparation for the when the zombie hordes come down from the local estate to steal my toilet rolls.

However, all plans then go on hold whilst some random person on Facebook decides I need exposing as someone who is profiting from this whole Covid-19 situation. You might or might not know I help to administer a dental Facebook page with three other dentists. We ended up having to block this person last week and all week I’ve been getting various messages demanding to be unblocked. Today though, I was accused of using Covid-19 to profit from, presumably because I seem to have appeared recently on more platforms than is healthy for anyone (particularly the viewers and readers!). I’d just like to go on record to say that I’m not being paid for any of the stuff I’m doing, and, to be honest, I don’t think anyone who is doing these types of things at the moment is benefitting very much financially if at all because they all know how challenging the financial situation is (and will yet become). About lunchtime, I get exposed for who I really am (apparently), and after responding with a bit of toing and froing in my usual direct manner, I eventually get a message from this person wishing me peace, and that I can now unblock him whenever I want. Daft thing is, it was one of the other admins who muted him in the first place. It did actually bring me a little bit of needed light relief; I shared laughter with the other admins at the unexpected nature of it all, and several of my other FB friends who were also watching things unfold. I’ve hardly had time to go on Facebook to see what is happening, although I have noted there do seem to be an awful lot less of the sexy ‘look at me, be like me’ cosmetic and lifestyle posts. Perhaps some are realising now is not the time to big themselves up on social media, when people need a vastly different kind of support in their professional lives. Or perhaps they’ve just blocked me, I don’t care.

We are living history at the moment, and the next day is still unwritten.

It’s now 4pm on Saturday and I’ve just watched the announcement from Downing Street. How nice it is to know the insolvency system is going to be made much better for us. Rather than looking at actually giving small business owners and associates a bite of the cherry, I’m so reassured any impending insolvency is going to be so much more painless.

I have no idea where the next chapter of this blog is going. I’m writing this both as a type of diary and as sort of stream of consciousness (the bits of my consciousness that can actually be published or do actually make some sense!) because I was asked to put some thoughts down. But it is actually going to be quite interesting in the years to come to read through this and work out what my state of mind was at this time. We are living history at the moment, and the next day is still unwritten.

Stay Safe.

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