29th March 2021
As we move out of lockdown, we speak to Dr Iram Sheik, kh BDS DGDP RC - Practice owner and Principal at Andrew House Dental Practice, about how the independent has worked and adapted over the past year.
As an Independent Business owner and practicing dentist for over 26 years in Tonbridge, I would like to share with you the challenges and triumphs of Andrew House Dental Practice in this last year.
Lockdown came as complete surprise, none of us was expecting to be suddenly told that we were not able to see our patients face to face and from March 23rd 2020 the practice was officially closed. All our appointments needed to be cancelled and a whole new system of helping our community needed to be learnt- and fast!
The first few days was a flurry of activity, answering the deluge of patient enquires and having very little official guidance with which to work. There were no emergency centres open for people in pain or suffering from infections. Many dental practices had switched on their answerphones and patients felt stranded. As anyone who has suffered toothache will tell you, it can be unbearable and leave you in real distress.
We have a great team at Andrew House and I very quicky organised a system by which all our dentists were available remotely to give advice, diagnose problems and do video consultations for patients in need. Patients were comforted to be able to speak directly to their own dentist and not a stranger at an “out of hours” emergency service. Where patients were shielding or too frightened to leave home, I delivered medication to their homes or arranged for our local pharmacy to offer a collection service.
I have always been committed to serving our community and so we offered advice and remote treatment to patients that were not even registered with us but could not access help from their own dentists. The three months of lockdown for myself and our manager Leah were spent in the practice, doors locked and manning the phone lines. We were inundated with requests for help. Some lateral thinking and good community contacts allowed us to source and dispense temporary filling kits to patients in need and use video calling to guide them how to place these safely in their own teeth. Many patients needed reassurance and a friendly voice as they felt isolated and frightened. We identified our more vulnerable patients, those living alone or in difficult circumstances and called regularly to check in with them. For many, this was the only contact they had with someone who cared in a rapidly shrinking existence.
Keeping our own spirits up was key and small pleasures definitely kept us going. Wearing a different wig every day, perhaps a tiara, anything to bring a smile! The nature of our job is very sociable and so regular calls with our staff were very important during this time. The sudden isolation and lack of structure in the day was an issue for many staff and we arranged group video calls to stay connected and share our lives.
From the outset we knew that when we were given a date to resume seeing patients there would be a huge demand and that we would need to make changes to the practice and source the correct PPE. We spoke to suppliers from all over the country to procure respirator masks, sneeze screens and surgical PPE and on June 8th 2020 we reopened a fully compliant practice ahead of so many others.
It is with a huge sense of pride and accomplishment that we have been able to continue to provide access to patients. This has been down to our amazing and dedicated team. Running an independent practice that does not have corporate influence or financial backing has its challenges but it has allowed us to respond to the needs of our patients and community in a way that others have not.
I believe that the last year has shone a spotlight on those businesses that are dedicated to helping others and who will go the extra mile to make this happen. I am proud to say that Andrew House is one of them.
Member receive 10% off teeth whitening plus 6 Glow Peels for the price of 5 at Andrew House Dental Practice. Find more details here.