Keep it Clean

Mark Quigley.jpg

For those of a certain age (and perhaps gender) the phrase "mucky magazines" may suggest something entirely different to the meaning intended by an NHS infection control worker in Dorset.

According to a dentist in the Lyme Regis area, she was warned by her local Primary Care Trust that keeping back issues of Country Life magazine in her practice waiting room could place her in breach of legislation concerning Health & Safety. The apparent concern was that old periodicals could pose a risk of infection.

According to the Regulator, the Care Quality Commission, there is no requirement whatsoever to remove old magazines from dentists waiting rooms.

Nevertheless, the very fact that an employee of the PCT considered it appropriate to suggest otherwise is yet another example of how those seeking to deliver care feel that Regulation is often a hindrance rather than a help in achieving the highest possible standards.

Responding to this story, Dr John Milne, Chair of the British Dental Associations General Dentist Practice Committee, said "patients are at the heart of everything dentists do and cleanliness and hygiene is taken very seriously by dental practices. Dentists are not opposed to regulation, but believe that it should be proportionate, cost effective and non-duplicatory".

Dental Practices are required to comply with Regulation 12 of the Health & Social Care Act (2008 Regulated Activities) Regulations 2010. This imposes a requirement to ensure, so far is reasonably practicable, that service users and employees are "protected against identifiable risks of acquiring a health care associated infection."

The CQC offer no specific guidance as to how this outcome should be achieved. Instead, reference is made to the Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections issued by the Department of Health. This code (at Appendix 'B') sets out some examples of how the guidance should be interpreted for primary dental care.

It is worthy of note that the guidance is entirely silent as to the potential risk associated with ageing, well thumbed magazines! Any well run Dental Practice will have systems in place to manage and monitor the prevention and control of infection, applying a sensible risk assessment procedure. Unquestionably, this will include the provision and maintenance of a clean and appropriate environment for the benefit of service users and employees.

In reality, dentists will be keen to ensure that the waiting room area at their practice will be tidy and well maintained so that a trip to the dentists is as pleasurable an experience as possible.

In so doing, practices will achieve the outcome required of them in accordance with legislation without the need for heavy handed and ill conceived regulatory intervention.

For further information about any aspect of regulation in the Dental Care Sector please contact Mark Quigley, Head of Regulatory Services on 0191 226 4899: e-mail

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