The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges in the last year, not least for dental services across the world. In the UK, dentistry closed down between 23rd March 2020 and 8th June 2020, with emergency care only being provided in designated centres. The impact on the training of dental surgeons, hygienists, therapists and nurses, as clinical placements stopped, was enormous.
The UK graduates 1,250 dentists and hygienists/therapists per year and their entry to the workforce is critically important to maintain dental service provision and access to the public and patients. However, without clinical placement experience to provide the necessary hands-on training with patients, this clinical student group cannot graduate, as in the eyes of the training establishments and the regulator, the General Dental Council, they would not be safe beginners.
One institution who suffered was Birmingham Dental Hospital, where Integral manage the facilities. The challenge we were given was to return students in the large open plan clinics, to safe provision of care, in a COVID-safe environment. What’s more, the greatest challenge and one still not met by many Dental Hospitals and Schools today, was a return to provision of Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs), using dental handpieces (drills and scalers and syringes).
At Birmingham Dental School and Hospital, Integral worked with Academic staff from the University, NHS staff from the Trust, our landlords at PRIME PLC and consulting engineers in environmental testing, to design, install and commission special screens that cellularised each open surgery to ensure safe containment of aerosol.
Integral project managed and co-ordinated a massive effort to fit out just under 100 surgery bays over three floors, in six weeks. The modern nature of the Dental Hospital build provided state of the art ventilation, using a mixed natural and mechanical model. Air replacement and flow patterns were mapped to provide the assurance around screen design and commissioning. A local company – DIS provided the screens and worked day and night and weekends to manufacture and install against challenging timelines.
The result was impressive and many believe that the new screens were part of the original building design. There was a risk that up to 250 dental students may not have graduated next summer, but Birmingham Dental School believe that the majority of their final year students will now be able to claw back sufficient clinical experience from the lost 6-months to be ready for their finals clinical examinations in June/July 2021.
Professor Iain Chapple – Director of Research Institute of Clinical Sciences praised the collaborative approach and results saying:
This was a superb example of pragmatic team working between the University of Birmingham, NHS Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust as placement provider, Prime as Landlord, Integral as Landlord’s agent and DiS as designer and manufacturer. Five organisations all pulling together to prioritise and safeguard student education and patient care.Director of Research Institute of Clinical Sciences