Sheffield dentist reveals how pandemic has caused “huge backlog of work”

A Sheffield dentist has explained the difficulties of working during the pandemic after a report revealed patients were waiting months for treatment.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 4:45 pm

Some dentists are only offering a fifth of the treatments they did pre-pandemic and Healthwatch Sheffield says many people have been left “distressed and confused”.

Jim Lafferty, of Orgreave Dental Surgery, told a scrutiny board about the challenges.

“The PPE is onerous, I’ll either have a normal surgical mask on or I’ll have what looks like a RAF pilot’s mask on and I spend my time inside plastic bags sweating buckets.

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File photo of a general view of dentist at work. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

“But the thing that’s really restricted access is whenever we create an aerosol. Our drills and sonic cleaners spray water and air on the tip but an aerosol is a potential way that Covid could spread so we do a lot of precautions after we’ve created an aerosol, and in particular we have to shut the surgery with nobody in it.

“Initially, that was for an hour. We’ve managed to get that down to 10 minutes, assisted by a massive fan with a tube coming out of the back of it that sticks out the window.

“There’s 10 minutes when we can’t see anybody and then it takes about another 10 minutes of cleaning so we have big holes in our diary when we cannot see patients and that has a big impact on access.”

Mr Lafferty said there was a “huge backlog of work” from when dentists had to close.

Lucy Davies, of Healthwatch Sheffield, says there is a national problem with people accessing a dentist

“Patients who we are used to seeing us every three months and have been pretty stable suddenly need a lot more in the way of examination and follow up treatment so that’s created an even bigger hole in our diary so it’s severely restricting access to patients.”

Lucy Davies of Healthwatch Sheffield said it was a nationwide problem.

“One of the things that’s been striking for us is there’s been such consistency with what we’ve been hearing.

“Every week, we’ll get feedback on dentistry and it’s not a couple of people who said this to us, it’s a range of people coming to us very consistently.

“The standout thing is the issue of equity, people are having quite varied experiences, and in particular people that didn’t have a regular dentist before Covid seem to be having a much harder time accessing care now.

“There’s also the issue of equity that arises from NHS versus private care. We’re getting a lot of people saying when they’ve sought NHS care they’ve instead been offered private care or been told they’ve got to wait a very long time for it on the NHS.

“There are national issues around funding and the British Dental Association recognises there are national changes that need to be made.”


In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.