Publish date: 21 October 2020

The hospital marked the start of the year with a visit by HM The Queen in February 2020. A few weeks after this celebration, the pandemic took hold and the hospital stepped up to help.

Working with NHS England, the team set up an emergency dental hospital so patients from across London who would otherwise see their local dentist could be assessed and treated.

Deborah Bomfim, Interim Director of Dentistry, service said: “We would triage people over the telephone and where needed provide face to face appointments. Patients ranged from children who had cracked a tooth, people with dental pain and infections, to those with more complex issues.”

The UCLH staff testing service was established at the hospital and run by the division. It means that UCLH staff can rapidly access a COVID-19 swab if they or a member of their household have COVID-19 symptoms. With results back rapidly, staff who test negative can quickly and safely return to work.

Clinicians from the hospital have also been at the forefront of research about COVID-19. Peter Andrews, interim clinical director of surgery, said: “I am proud of our role in developing understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on smell and taste and that we are now treating people in our smell clinic. Our PhD program at the EAR institute and collaborations with Institute of Neurology are also looking at new treatments. Our aim is look at new ways of restoring anosmia and taste loss amongst our patients.”

Alongside developing research and treatment, clinicians were redeployed during the peak of the pandemic. Anaesthetists and ENT surgeons worked in our critical care units and nurses worked with COVID-19 patients on the wards. Dentists with dual medical qualifications have supported our maternity teams, and our nurses, dental nurses and allied health professionals have been involved in ways ranging from fitting personal protective equipment to developing our testing service. The psychology team also were involved supporting staff.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work of the administration and management teams, who behind the scenes played a huge role, setting up remote systems, staying in touch with patients, and ensuring the clinics were set up and able to run.

Finally, during the lockdown, innovative ways of working to ensure our ENT and dental patients continue to receive high quality care and treatment were set up.

Just some examples are:

  • the dental team has set up remote consultations for patients where no face to face assessment is needed. Feedback from patients has been extremely positive and the development has also enabled more rapid involvement of other specialities and closer integration with teams at UCLH.
  • the medicine specialities (dental medicine, allergy and audiovestibular medicine changed most of their face to face appointments to telephone consultations. This meant almost all services were able to deliver the same service as before COVID-19. Patients and staff have welcomed these changes as they have made it easier and more convenient for patients to see their clinical team and provided flexibility for the teams at the hospital. Patients with urgent conditions, or who needed immediate treatment continued to be seen face to face with the ENT Urgent Referral Clinic remaining open throughout.
  • the hearing aid repair team set up systems to enable hearing aid and mould repairs to continue without people having to travel to the hospital and set up telephone consultations and support.

Navdeep Kumar, divisional clinical director for the Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals, said: “Now one year old, the Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals teams have made an incredible contribution to the UCLH response to COVID-19.

"Now, as we approach winter, we are ready and open to provide the very best care for all our patients. Thank you to everyone in the division for all of their hard work over the last year.”