Fears over infection control at a north Northumberland dental practice have led to nearly 30 patients being recalled for checks and blood tests.
Last week, letters were sent out to 28 patients of a particular dentist at Genix Healthcare Dental Clinic, based at Cawledge Business Park in Alnwick.
It follows concerns that the dentist in question, who is no longer working, ‘may not have been following the high-quality standards that would be expected’.
A statement from NHS North of Tyne, which is responsible for the contracting of NHS dentistry in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, explained it is asking patients to have their dental work checked after concerns that one dentist may not have been following the expected standards.
‘At the same time patients are being offered a precautionary blood test for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV in keeping with best clinical practice,’ it said.
‘The dentist is not working at the practice any longer and is not practising as a dentist any more.’
Professor Sue Milner, director of public health and protection for NHS North of Tyne and Northumberland County Council, emphasised that patients were being recalled by NHS North of Tyne as a precautionary measure.
She said: “I want to strongly reassure patients that any risks to them are extremely small and we are carrying out this recall because we have a duty of care to patients and, given this responsibility, we wanted to contact them directly, explain what has happened and apologise for any distress or anxiety this recall might cause.
“I would urge patients to respond and arrange for their dental check and blood test so any worries can be put to rest as soon as possible.”
The statement also confirmed that the NHS is currently carrying out an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the clinical issues.
It continues: ‘So it would not be appropriate to comment further at the moment apart from to again strongly reassure patients that any risks are minimal and the recall is being carried out as a precautionary measure.’
A statement from Genix Healthcare said: ‘Genix Healthcare is proud of its cross-infection standards at the Alnwick practice which meet all of the Department of Health’s ‘Best Practice’ standards and this was recently confirmed during a glowing report we received from the Care Quality Commission.
‘We are cooperating fully with the primary care trust and are in the process of contacting the small number of patients affected to offer advice and support at this time.’
A briefing note from the NHS sent out to county councillors, and seen by the Gazette, adds some background information.
It states: ‘The North East Primary Care Services Agency (NEPCSA), who work on behalf of NHS North of Tyne, became aware that a dentist working for Genix in Alnwick may not have been following the high-quality standards that would be expected. The NHS could not be assured that he was working at the highest levels of infection control.
‘After taking expert advice from dental advisers and the Health Protection Agency, it was decided that given the concerns, 28 patients should be invited for a dental check.’
It also explains that the concerns are restricted to patients of a single dentist who had certain treatments.
‘The 28 patients concerned have been identified as being treated by a specific dentist and had a bridge or a crown fitted. There are no concerns about patients who have had other treatment at the practice.’
The document goes on to explain that the 28 patients will be invited for a check and once they have been given any relevant information, they can decide if they want any remedial work, which will be provided free of charge.
It also underlines that the blood test offered is purely precautionary, for the patients’ ‘reassurance and peace of mind’, and standard practice.
There is no evidence of anyone at the practice being infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV, all of which are ‘uncommon in England’.
The dental clinic was inspected by the Care Quality Commission in September ‘in response to concerns that one or more of the essential standards of quality and safety were not being met’.
But the inspection report, published in October, states that the practice meets all five of the standards.
Part of the summary read: ‘Everyone we spoke with made positive comments and indicated they were pleased with the treatment they received.
‘People described the treatment as ‘excellent’ and ‘very good’