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The new Covid-19 safety measures—what to expect

How clinics and dental practices are adapting to help keep you safe

We are in a very different place now to where we were at the start of 2020. With the Covid-19 pandemic dictating how we live our lives both now and for the foreseeable future, as lockdown eases we are starting to get used to a level of freedom that we’ve been denied for  a third of the year.  

All clinics and dental surgeries have been closed since 23 March when the country went into lockdown. So for beauty and aesthetics clients, the news that the government is set to ease restrictions (subject to the infection level being low enough) on non-essential services and personal care businesses couldn’t come too soon.

Whether you’ve already booked an appointment or are thinking about it (and if you haven’t, why not check out our ‘find an expert' tool for some options), what is the actual experience likely to look like?

Firstly, rest assured that a responsible business will be doing everything it can to ensure your safety.

"While the shape of the ‘new norm’ may not yet be entirely clear, it is certain that it will involve a greater awareness of, and responsiveness to, the ongoing risk of infection and cross-infection," says Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Trustee, Andrew Rankin.
 
He recommends that consumers  look out for clinics with a clear policy in place, based on Government requirements and supported by industry guidance, such as that established by the JCCP. Policies may vary between clinics depending upon the treatments offered and the size of the premises.

 “Like many of my colleagues, I have gone to great lengths to implement infection control policies, to decrease the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in my clinic," confirms Cosmetic and Reconstructive Doctor Dr Nestor Demosthenous.

“After careful risk assessment of every part of the patient journey, from calling the clinic to completing their treatment and paying at reception, we have implemented stringent measures to make the environment as safe as possible for patients, as well as staff. While there will be visible changes to the environment, patients can still expect the same five star service and treatment they have grown to expect from us.”

Skin expert and medical doctor Dr Anna Hemming also confirms that her staff are fully prepared for the increased cleaning and PPE required for certain treatments. “As the phases of return to work continue, the restrictions will change,” she says.

“This will mean potential for closer contact or if the situation changes we may have to change our treatment menu. The key to reopening is to continue to be aware of how others are feeling and how regulations develop.”

The dental profession is already used to maintaining the highest standards of hygiene and infection control, however Specialist Oral Surgeon Sami Stagnell, admits that reopening has been a complex process.

“We have a huge backlog of patients due to lockdown on top of the numbers coming in, and instead of seeing 20-30 patients a day we are now only able to see up to 10,” he says. "This is because we need to ensure we follow guidelines around disinfection and clinic preparation. Cleaning before each appointment has always been of a high standard in dentistry, but now we are taking extra steps in order to minimise the risk of any spread of infection.”

“We’re also adjusting to the fact that there will changes to the experience for us all: there will be less small talk and the social element to seeing patients will be very different, it’s a much more clinical experience. But by and large people have been supportive and understanding of these changes, they are just happy to be able to book an appointment again.”

At The Dentist Gallery in London, Dr Jerome Sebah and his team are taking an all-inclusive approach to the new safety measures with patient temperature checks on arrival, regular Covid-19 testing for staff, ventilation systems in each room which regenerate and purify the air three times an hour, and alcohol fogging—high pressure misting that disinfects hard to reach surfaces.

WHAT WILL YOUR AESTHETICS APPOINTMENT LOOK LIKE?

Before and at your appointment
There will no longer be any walk-ins—clinics will work on an appointments only system. Expect to be triaged beforehand, receiving a  list of screening questions regarding developing any Covid-19 symptoms, recent travel or contact with anyone who is Covid-19 positive; you will be asked to inform the clinic 24-48 hours before attending your appointment should this change. Arriving on time is very important to reduce the number of patients in clinic at any one time—the number of patients allowed in the waiting room will be determined by its size. "If appropriate to attend for treatment, written information of requirements should be provided in advance and should include, for example, use of card rather than cash, avoidance of excess belongings, attending alone, and wearing of jewellery and makeup," says Rankin.

Your practitioner
PPE is a prerequisite, and your practitioner should be wearing some form of mask/shield and eye protection such as goggles, an apron and gloves. The practitioner should aim to reduce contact time with the patient and this may require some understanding on your part.

Health and hygiene
Upon arrival, you will be asked to clean your hands at a sanitisation station. Appointment times will be extended to allow for thorough cleaning in-between patients, and you may also find that the bathrooms are closed. The premises should be cleaned between each patient, often with a bleach solution which may be evident. There should be no ‘one in, one out’ process for a treatment room. Patients at the Dr Rita Rakus clinic in London will only be offered bottled drinks handled by one responsible staff member wearing gloves and changing them after each contact. Patients will also have their temperature taken on arrival and will need to bring their own reading material if desired, as there will no longer be magazines and brochures on display.

Payment
Like in most retail stores, cash will no longer be accepted. At Dr Rita Rakus, patients will pay for their treatment in the room, by credit or debit card only. The card machine will be thoroughly cleaned before and after each use, and invoices will be emailed straight after payment.

Follow up appointments
Expect to be in and out of the door as quickly as possible, bypassing reception—at Dr Rita Rakus, follow up appointments will be made on the telephone to reduce the amount of time spent in the clinic. "There are increased costs to working in this pandemic environment which may or may not be passed on to the consumer," says Rankin. "Appointments may be more limited due to the time required to meet guidelines and clinics may not be able to be as flexible as they once were. This requires some patience and understanding for the consumer attending a reputable clinic for a safe treatment."