In this series of four articles, DDU members from different backgrounds reflect on how 2020 changed the way they work, talking about their experiences of adjusting to our new ways of working and offering advice for the future from their own unique perspectives.
My name is Andrew Chandrapal, and I am in private practice in Buckinghamshire and central London. I have been practicing for nearly 20 years and have experience of both NHS and private practice.
Lockdown has proven to be a time of mixed feelings. The longer the pandemic has been the forefront of everything we do, the more divided our population appears to be. At times, this has been a great cause for concern, especially when the time for being united and looking after others has never been greater.
In regards to practice, I was able alongside my team to return to work at the end of June which, like many required the implementation of strict operating protocols and the use of certified PPE. The return to practice was also guided by the DDU, supporting us and clarifying what can be carried out and how clinical decisions must be approached in terms of risk management and consent.
This has been a difficult time, especially when lines of communication have not been regular nor concise from our governing bodies. However, implementing the operating protocols has also been somewhat of a moving target, with revisions and modifications being added periodically.
This has taken its toll on my management team and some of my nursing team. They have had to experience initial gratitude from patients, which in later times has evolved to frustrated patients who have found it difficult to understand and are undergoing their own personal and professional stresses. The day-to-day operation is now well established and understood by team members, which allows safe transition of patients through the practice to have treatment of varying types.
It is not always perfect, but we try hard and continue to adapt
Particular to my practice are two major aspects. The first is that my practice is a seven surgery facility with a single entrance and exit. We have had to downscale our day-to-day working team in order to comply with current distancing guidelines, which means a reduction in operating capacity and productivity. We have reviewed our diary management to help accommodate this but it remains a challenge.
The second aspect is on the general dentistry side of the practice, managing the large numbers of patients wanting to be seen combined with our specialist wing, which relies on referrals from other GDPs - some of which remain closed. These strange times have led to problems which mean every member of the team needs to reinvent their role to a degree and adapt to new methods of operating.
This has taken a lot of time and energy to implement and personally less sleep and more time strategizing! I hope the pandemic begins to stabilise in due course, either scientifically or by the general population complying to a broader level, so we get a greater degree of consistency, which is what communities and business are all looking for at this time.
Our main aim is to ensure quality of patient care will not be affected. As with many practices we have worked hard to build a positive and meaningful reputation; we have made sure that patients who present in pain can be seen promptly, as well as structuring treatment plans for more complex procedures.
It is not always perfect, but we try hard and continue to adapt in the hope that effective communication to team, patient and clinicians can result in a mutual understanding until a stable point is reached - this would be my overriding message to readers, and I now spend far longer ensuring my team and patients remain fully informed. After all, nobody wants to feel as though they have been forgotten about, so we ensure that we at least control this important aspect of teamwork and patient care.